Saturday, 31 December 2016

Trump's Finances are dependent on Putin but that does not keep us safe.

Leigh Richards over at Rodolfo Walsh's Glasses has pointed out   that President Elect  Donald Trumps belligerent outburst over use of nuclear weapons could lead  readers who like a flutter might be interested to know you can get decent odds with some bookmakers on the likelihood of a nuclear war breaking out in 2017 .

The odds I think would be lower of if not for the fact that  the last year there has been a recurrent refrain about the seeming bromance between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

President-elect Donald Trump gave Vladimir Putin two thumbs up Friday for not immediately retaliating after the U.S. expelled 35 Russian diplomats and imposed other sanctions for allegedly interfering with the presidential election.
Trump tweeted his approval after Putin rejected his foreign minister's proposal to give American diplomats the boot as payback
Not long after, the Russian Embassy in the U.S. retweeted Trump.
Many believe Trump is an admirer and would-be emulator of Putin's increasingly autocratic and illiberal rule. 

Putin has condemned President Obama's move, which also included imposing sanctions on two suspected hackers and three companies that allegedly support the Russian GRU intelligence service's cyber operations.
U.S. intelligence services have accused the Russians of launching cyber-attacks on the Democratic Party in the run up to the Nov. 8 election.
Emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were leaked online and messages stolen from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta later appeared on the website WikiLeaks.
President-elect Donald Trump gave Vladimir Putin two thumbs up Friday for not immediately retaliating after the U.S. expelled 35 Russian diplomats and imposed other sanctions for allegedly interfering with the presidential election.
Trump tweeted his approval after Putin rejected his foreign minister's proposal to give American diplomats the boot as payback.
"I always knew he was very smart," Trump tweeted.
Not long after, the Russian Embassy in the U.S. retweeted Trump.
Putin has condemned President Obama's move, which also included imposing sanctions on two suspected hackers and three companies that allegedly support the Russian GRU intelligence service's cyber operations.
U.S. intelligence services have accused the Russians of launching cyber-attacks on the Democratic Party in the run up to the Nov. 8 election.
Emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were leaked online and messages stolen from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta later appeared on the website WikiLeaks.Facebook
The CIA concluded Moscow was, in part, trying to help Trump win and NBC News has reported that intelligence officials believe "with a high level of confidence" that Putin was personally involved in the covert campaign.
The Russians have denied meddling in the election. But many Democratic and Republican lawmakers are convinced that Moscow crossed the line and support a strong response against the Russians.
"Russia is not our friend," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently tweeted, adding that Obama had not "dissuaded" Moscow from trying to hack into U.S. security systems:
Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, tweeted that Putin is playing Trump for a fool.
Trump, however, has insisted repeatedly that he doesn't believe the Russians played any role in his unexpected victory. And when asked about the sanctions, he replied: "I think we ought to get on with our lives."
"I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole, you know, age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what's going on," Trump said Thursday outside his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. "We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I'm not sure you have the security that you need."

But as the TPM points out

there's quite a bit more to the story. At a minimum, Trump appears to have a deep financial dependence on Russian money from persons close to Putin. And this is matched to a conspicuous solicitousness to Russian foreign policy interests where they come into conflict with US policies which go back decades through administrations of both parties. There is also something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of evidence suggesting Putin-backed financial support for Trump or a non-tacit alliance between the two men.
More here.

Of course whereas  so reliant is Trump  on Russian Finance it may be that he may be reluctant to act belligerent  towards Russia.

After all if Putin orders his friends to cut Trumps Finances  then the latter could face ending his term as  President  as a bankrupt.

However while we may at first breath a sight  of relief that a Right Wing Republican US President may not be prepared to start World War 111, We may find that Trump who takes delight  in taking revenge over those he believed crossed him, would press the button not for the sake of the US  but his own finances.

World War 111 could start not out of ideology but with the equivalent of someone who  lost their  home  "Going Postal" in their local branch of  Lloyds or Nat West banks.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Not one prosecution for paying less than minimum wage in Wales.

It comes as no surprise that not one rogue employer paying employees less than the National Minimum Wage in Wales has been prosecuted, the UK Government 
The National Minimum Wage for workers aged 21 to 24 is currently £6.95 per hour. The National Living Wage, which applies to all workers aged 25 or over is £7.20 per hour.
Shadow Secretary of State for Wales Jo Stevens described the lack of prosecutions since the Conservatives took office in 2010 as a “complete disgrace”.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said it was a “21st Century Dickensian scandal”.
 how the number of workers identified as being illegally underpaid had risen to more than 400 in 2013/14, with the bulk being in the Swansea-centred SA postcode area. Total arrears for workers in that year came to £112,320.
We can only wonder if there is a major  company in this area has been breaking the law.
Wales Online continue
Now, Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jane Ellison has confirmed in response to a Parliamentary Question from Shadow Wales Office Minister Gerald Jones that there have been no prosecutions of employers in Wales for paying less than the minimum wage since the Tories came to power six and a half years ago.
It contrast sharply with how Benefit Fraud is dealt with .
I do not not have a problem with  prosecutions of Benefit fraud , but why should employers apparently  get away with something that should be relatively easy to prove.
After all the evidence should be in Wages Slips'
Jo Stevens, the MP for Cardiff Central, and Shadow Welsh Secretary said: 
“It’s a complete disgrace that in 2016 we still have employers unlawfully paying people less than the minimum wage, but worse, we have a government in Westminster which two years after the evidence was revealed still hasn’t prosecuted anyone for doing it.
“Unscrupulous businesses will break the law and exploit people if they think they can get away with it, and under the Tories because of their lack of action it’s clear they can.
“We need real action to crack down on these exploitative employers to make sure workers get a fair deal and to ensure it’s a level playing field for responsible business who are paying what they should.”
Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood said: 
“The UK Government’s continuing failure to uphold the law when rogue employers fail to pay their workers the minimum wage is a 21st century Dickensian scandal.
“It has been years since I first raised the issue of employers failing to abide by the law and two years since I raised the matter of these 400 workers being paid less than the minimum wage. It’s unacceptable that the government has failed to act yet again.
“The Conservatives are simultaneously weakening trades unions’ rights while also failing to ensure that working people are paid the wages they are legally entitled to. For all their rhetoric about being on the side of ordinary people, it is clear that the Tories continue to act against the interests of working class people.
Plaid Cymru demands that the UK Government takes immediate action to hold companies that flout employment law to account. If employers break the law, they should face the full force of it.
 “Plaid Cymru is in favour of increasing the minimum wage to the Living Wage as set out by the Living Wage Foundation.
“We believe that workers deserve a fair day’s pay for doing a fair day’s work – a principle we will strive to put into practice when we are in government.”
 A spokeswoman for HMRC said:

“We have a strong enforcement record and our performance speaks for itself. There has been a significant increase in our 2015/16 performance compared to 2014/15, with three times the amount of arrears reclaimed (£10.3m) for twice as many workers (58,000).
“Since the introduction of the National Minimum Wage in 1999, HMRC has completed more than 70,000 NMW investigations and reclaimed over £68m of underpaid wages for over 313,000 workers. All businesses, irrespective of their size or business sector, are responsible for paying the correct minimum wage to their staff.“The vast majority of responsible employers make sure they get it right. HMRC continues to crack down on employers who ignore the law, ensuring that their employees receive the wages they are entitled to.“Punishment for not complying with the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage can include fines of up to 200% of the arrears owed, naming in the national press, and, for the worst offences, criminal prosecution.“We always take action where we believe an employer is not paying its workers the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage to ensure every worker receives what they are legally entitled to. We do not discuss individual cases.“HMRC ensures that every complaint made by a worker through the ACAS Helpline is fully assessed for National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage compliance.“In 2015/16, we investigated 2,667 businesses, recovering £10.3m of underpaid wages for 58,080 workers.”

So the investigations and evidence  are there  so why no prosecutions.

Recovering  the Wages is all well and good but until employers are taken to court they will regard this as a risk worth taking.

Is this evidence that after Brexit and if Reports that Theresa May is considering fighting the next election with a pledge to take the UK out of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) are correct will the Tories eventually scrap the .minimum wage 

Thursday, 29 December 2016

The Welsh and Scottish Office have had thier day.

Two stories yesterday raises questions of whether we need a seperate Welsh and Scottish Office
The Wales Office spent more than £500,000 on temporary agency staff in the past six years, according to government figures.
The figures were released in response to a parliamentary question by shadow Welsh secretary Jo Stevens.
They showed money spent on agency staff in the most expensive year (2014-15) could have paid for 11 full-time positions.
A UK government spokesman said they needed to fill posts at short notice.
Over the past six years, the figures showed staffing levels at the Wales Office were reduced from 57 to 44 permanent staff.
Ms Stevens described the spending as "typical terrible Tory mismanagement".
She said
"It's a complete false economy and puts more pressure on everyone and leaves temporary workers with worse pay and conditions and no job security," .
She called on the current Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns to "plan properly" and "build a department that has enough staff for the work it does rather than trying to cut corners".
A UK government spokesman said agency costs increased in 2013-14 and 2014-15 because of the "need to fill at short notice a number of business-critical posts temporarily" while recruitment campaigns were under way.
He added that Wales hosted a Nato conference in late 2014 and a global investment conference in Newport shortly afterwards.
This in itself may not be a major story but it coincides with the news that
An SNP MP has questioned why the UK government's Scotland Office has seen its budget increase by 20% over the past five years.
Margaret Ferrier said the increase came at the same time as a real-terms cut in the Scottish government budget.
Ms Ferrier said the Scotland Office has long been a 
"zombie department with next to no responsibilities".
She added:
 "With more powers transferring to the Scottish government, as (Scottish Secretary) David Mundell so enjoys telling us, it would be interesting to hear his explanation for why his department requires such an enormous increase in its budget.
"We know that the budget for Mundell's army of spin doctors and publicity campaigns to promote the benefits of the union to the people of Scotland has more than doubled.
"Perhaps he needs the extra help in trying to devise a believable reason for why he has U-turned on the single market and why he believes the people of Scotland should suffer Brexit despite not voting for it."
The UK government said it was right that the department was resourced for the challenges of the year ahead.
A spokeswoman said: 
"This year the Scotland Office has ensured the successful passage of the Scotland Act, making the Scottish Parliament one of the most powerful devolved governments in the world.
"It is right we are resourced for the challenges in 2017 as we continue to deliver the remaining powers as well as making sure we get the best deal for Scotland and the whole of the UK as we leave the EU."
As far as Wales is concerned we are largely voiceless,

But who would you trust to  speak for Scotland over Brexit.

Nicola Sturgeon or Theresa May's stooges.

It has long been questioned what we need the Scottish and Welsh Office for?

Can it be that the Tories and Labour in particular look at these two institutions as an  form of government in exile as the Tories especially  have never been in control of either legislature since devolved powers began.

The Tories have one MP in Scotland and although they have had a bit of revival in Scotland as they claim the Unionist role, the existence of the Scottish Office is a reminder of whose in charge.

As far as Northern Ireland is concerned the Northern Ireland Office largely exists to remind the Northern Ireland Assembly that the Westminster Government could suspend it (if not abolish it) if it is sen to be failing. 

Ia m not suggesting that this is a good thing but it has ben done before.

In the age of devolution do we need such Offices which are clearly the voice of the Westminster  government  in Wales Scotland and Northern Ireland rather than representing our interest.

The fact that the Tories often fail to have enough MPs from the devolved Nations to fill the places in the legislatures speaks volumes.

Do we really want these "Zombie departments" whose role seem to ignore the wishes of the electorate and push forward the agenda of of a Westminster Parliament that has been rejected in election after election in these Nations?

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Will Identify cards solve voting fraud?

I have always wondered why you are not expected to take your voting card with you to the polling station to vote. 
But I am far from convinced that plans to demand proof of identity by other means before voting is fair and the right move to combat  the issue
Councils in England, including Bradford and Birmingham, will trial the pilot scheme at local elections in 2018.
The government said it would "ensure the integrity" of the electoral system.
Campaigners said levels of fraud did not justify the move while Labour said it amounted to voter "suppression".
Different local authorities will trial different types of ID, including driving licences, passports and utility bills. The creation of a new form of ID specifically for voting has been ruled out by ministers.
Constitution minister Chris Skidmore said fraud of any kind was unacceptable and dismissed suggestions that the plans, which could be rolled out across the whole country if successful, could disenfranchise poor people who do not have ID.
"Voting is one of the most important transactions you can make as an individual. In many transactions you need a proof of ID."
"I'm determined to ensure, when it comes to groups who are under-registered, that they get the opportunity to exercise their vote," he added.
"Ensuring those communities are protected, that the risks of electoral fraud are diminished, will ensure those individuals are represented fairly across this country.
 The reform was first touted by former cabinet minister Sir Eric Pickles in August, when he released recommendations amid growing concerns about electoral fraud.

In his report, Sir Eric cited research suggesting certain Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities could be more vulnerable to fraud due to a lack of understanding of the voting process.
He highlighted "kinship" traditions, saying they emphasised collective over individual rights and made it more likely that people would "hand over" their vote over to others.
But even if this was true isn't the problem largely with postal voting?
Actual false representation at the polling station seems to me be far les of a problem.
It used to be a joke in Northern Ireland that Party supporters were encouraged to vote early and vote often.
To combat this The Northern Ireland Electoral Identity Card is a photographic identity card issued by the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland, used primarily to prove the holder's identity when voting at a polling station in Northern Ireland.[1] Although the card's primary purpose is to prove identity and age while voting, it is also widely accepted as valid proof of age at most bars, clubs and alcohol retailers in Northern Ireland.

There  are the four  other acceptable forms of photographic identification?

They are: A current Northern Ireland or Great Britain full driving licence or a Northern Ireland provisional licence, all of which must bear the photograph of the holder.
A current passport issued by the United Kingdom or any other Member State of the European Community.
A current Senior SmartPass issued under the Northern Ireland Concessionary Fares Scheme.
A current electoral identity card.

Similar iidentification are needed to get the Identity  Card  but if you do not have one If you do not have photographic identification to send in with your application, you can ask an MP, MEP, MLA or Councillor to complete the declaration below and send it in with your form.

This seems a bit weird it means that political parties could have some control over those applying.

So the Identity card is largely for those who have none of the above though it seems they need something like an identity indication tom apply for an ID card see here.

Why is there a need to have trials when part of the UK already have a system in process.

We could ask

  • Has the NI system led to a reduction in accusation of voting fraud.?
  • What is the take up and is there an easier way people could apply?
  • Does the NI system adversely affect any part of the population?
  • Does the need for a elected representation for those who do not have proof of identity to apply for the card lead to to much power by political parties?
As someone who welcomed by over 60's bus pass not only for the free travel but it helps solves my lack of passport or driving licence when it comes to proof of identity. I am fully aware of the problems people will face in proving their identification.

But is the government  new scheme really about combating fraud  or an attempt to disenfranchise section of the population as has been alleged.

It seems that this is a gimmick  and if they were really serious then they should consider the current postal voting system.