Monday, June 29, 2015
Particularly at the shipyards on the Clyde in Scotland, Britain once built around half of the world's ships. But with the coming of the welfare state, it got harder and harder to get the Scots unionists to work. So all that is built on the Clyde now are a few warships for the Royal Navy.
So when a British businessman decided to build three big new cruise liners, whom did he give the order to? To a company in Italy: The very experienced Fincantieri. No good blaming the order on low-wage Asian countries. Italy's standard of living is similar to Britain's.
Italian workers don't have a very good reputation for diligence but they are apparently way ahead of the perpetually aggrieved Scots
Virgin Cruises will launch its first luxury liner in 2020 from Miami, U.S, British tycoon Richard Branson has announced.
In typically flamboyant style, Branson arrived amid fireworks at the Perez Art Museum in Miami, descending from a helicopter dressed in a captain's uniform and shorts.
Branson promised 'a world-class cruise line that will redefine the cruising experience for good'.
Branson arrived amid fireworks at the Perez Art Museum in Miami, descending from a helicopter dressed in a captain's uniform and shorts
'Virgin Cruises plans to make some waves with an original and intimate experience,' he said at a news conference.
A joint venture with Bain Capital, the cruise line will be the latest addition to 64-year-old Branson's Virgin Group, which includes an airline, railroad, bank and cable operator among its more than 400 holdings.
Italian shipbuilding company Fincantieri will construct three mid-size vessels to be delivered in 2020, 2021 and 2022, with 1,430 cabins to accommodate more than 2,800 guests.
'We made the decision to sail against the current trend of building these big megaships,' Virgin Cruises president and CEO Tom McAlpin said. 'We are going to be constructing smaller, more boutique vessels.
'We have deliberately chosen a size of ship that allows us to offer an excellent variety of experiences but in a more intimate environment,' he said.
McAlpin said the ships will weigh about 110,000 tonnes each, and have the capacity to carry some 2,800 passengers and a crew of 1,150.
'These are highly technological machines,' said Fincantieri chairman Vincenzo Petrone. 'The level of the entertainment... envisioned is extremely complex with technological challenges. But we are sure we can together develop a very special type of platform.'
Another of those charming multiculturalists that Britain welcomes and supports
Unemployed Damien Dinobewei, 34, killed tragic Tia Kounota, 27, when he was in a 'florid' state after he stopped taking medication for his paranoid schizophrenia.
A court heard he punched and strangled his lover before driving her corpse around in her pink Audi which he eventually set fire to.
Dinobewei, of Stirchley, Birmingham, admitted a charge of manslaughter at an earlier hearing. And he was sent to a secure hospital indefinitely when he was sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday.
Judge James Burbidge QC said: 'Whatever was the spark or cause of the disagreement ultimately does not matter. 'You launched an attack upon her, albeit that no bones were broken, with sufficient ferocity to render her unconscious. 'Mercifully it appears, because of the lack of carbon monoxide in her lungs, she was dead before you carried out this dreadful act.
'The most significant aggravating feature is you attempt to dispose of the body as you did. 'This was a gross defilement.'
Friends of Miss Kounota, who had a seven-year-old daughter and was training to be a social worker at Birmingham City University, reacted with anger at the sentence.
The court heard Miss Kounota had been in a relationship with Dinobewei for several years but he could be 'volatile and controlling towards her'.
She was living at a friend's house in Halesowen, West Midlands, when she arranged to meet her lover on July 22 last year.
Prosecutor Mark Heywood told the court neighbours heard screams and saw Dinobewei pushing Miss Kounota into her pink Audi. He added: 'She saw a muscular man dragging a woman by her hair and punching her repeatedly. 'Tia was screaming very loudly and appeared really distressed.'
The court heard Dinobewei sped off and was spotted at a number of locations as he bought petrol at a garage and drove towards the city centre.
He finally parked the Audi in Erdington, Birmingham, where witnesses saw him get out carrying a petrol can.
'Moments later the car burst into flames and the defendant made his way off.'
He said the likely cause of death was blunt force trauma, with compression of the neck, but she may have survived for up to 30 minutes before she died.
Being a parent beats everything you have ever done or will ever do
MY friend tells me she’s thinking of having a baby. She’s hoped for nearly a decade there’d be a man to do it with her but here she is, hurtling towards fertility’s finish line, alone and wondering.
In the weak winter sunshine we thrash out the issues: her fears of doing it on her own; the loveless transaction of donor sperm; whether children need fathers; whether she can afford it; who would raise the child if something happened to her.
She’s thoughtful and logical and talking helps her index her thoughts. Of all life’s decisions it’s got to be one of the hardest and yet …
And yet all I can see is my 14-year-old daughter sitting between us. A girl she adores. A girl upon whom my own life turns. As my daughter listens to the woes of womanhood that will envelop her all too soon, suddenly everything rational, everything considered falls away and I know I have to tell my friend this one true thing. Perhaps the only true thing.
If you even remotely want to have a child, if the thought is just a seed buried in the darkness, then you should endeavour to have one. Why? Because beyond all reasoning, all pragmatism, is a single inarguable and under-publicised truth: loving a child is a joy.
It’s a joy you can’t measure, a joy that defies best-laid plans, a joy so complete, unconditional, infinite, and ever-unfolding that the simple act of watching them breathe takes yours away.
Somehow in the hurly burly of modern parenting, when every conversation about kids includes the words “juggling”, “discipline”, “expensive” “challenges” and “problems”, we’ve stopped talking about the delight of raising a child. Of the fun, silliness and affection. Of seeing your hard work, care and thought made whole in this little person finding their way in the world.
We need to tell women — and men — the good stuff and encourage them to have a conversation with themselves about whether that’s something they want.
Forget patronising them with warnings about their biological clocks — for goodness sake, they know. Stop hassling them to find a partner — they would if they could? Refrain from positioning them as heartless careerists who’ve left motherhood too late — no woman sobs into her hands “I can’t believe I forgot to have children”.
Instead they need to hold a personal child summit. It could be on their own or with a friend or counsellor. It might involve going away solo for a weekend.
Whatever — it should occur between the age of 25 and 35 and be as rigorous as any job interview.
Do I want children?
What lengths am I prepared to go to in having a child?
How might I feel if I never have a child?
Would I consider having a child alone?
In life we set goals — career, sporting, weight-loss, travel, finance — and yet so often this most critical of human experiences is left to circumstance and chance. Many delay the conversation until “I meet the right person”. But the first step should be a thorough examination of your own yearnings.
If you’re not keen or you’re ambivalent about kids, that’s great. Own that decision. If it’s something you’ve always wanted then plan a life that gives you the best possible chance of achieving that goal. Not sure? Diary to check in with yourself every six months. And talk to others who’ve missed out. Ask them their regrets? What they might’ve done differently. That seed in the darkness can grow over time into a thick vine of longing. For some such loss will be unavoidable; for others childlessness might be averted by thorough self-examination and different choices.
In my late 20s a good friend, Sandra, discovered she was pregnant shortly before the relationship ended. She had a brilliant career as a television reporter but gave it up to move home to a provincial seaside town so she could raise her child closer to family. When word of her pregnancy reached colleagues one put her arms around her and said: “This will be the best mistake you’ve ever made.
For the past 16 years I’ve watched this little family — a tight-knit unit of two — throw themselves at life.
For two years Sandra moved them to Rarotonga where she picked lettuces and her daughter enjoyed the freedom of island life. Over the years their photographs have not been the boast of so many perfect Facebook families but scenes of genuine happiness. There’s pictures of them collecting shells, making angel wings out of autumn leaves, camping so they can rent out their home through the busy summer months. As she says: “I often tell women who are pregnant in less than fairy-tale circumstances, ‘I can’t tell you just how much you are going to LOVE this baby’. It’s the purest, most soul-stretching love of all; unconditional in a way couple-love can never be; irrational almost.”
It can’t have been easy but my friend knew she wanted her baby. If she’d waited until all the elements of her life had aligned she fears she may have missed out. “Having and raising a child beats everything else I have ever done or ever will do,” she tells me. “I wish more younger women knew that.”
Authoritarianism in devolved British governments
Wales recently became the first region in the UK to ban the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public places. Welsh Assembly ministers justified the ban by saying it would prevent the ‘normalisation of smoking’, whatever that means. The ban is likely to come into force in 2017. Surprisingly, there has been opposition to the new law from anti-smoking campaigners. They correctly point out that e-cigarettes are not harmful in the way smoking tobacco is and that they have helped heavyweight smokers kick the habit. Far from being a health risk, e-cigarettes are a harmless way for individuals to enjoy nicotine. Even from the killjoy perspective of health zealots, the e-cig ban appears an irrational and needlessly authoritarian policy.
The creation of petty new laws has become a speciality of the devolved assemblies in the UK. The Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and the London Assembly often go much further than the UK parliament in controlling and criminalising day-to-day behaviour. Given parliament’s track record in this regard, that’s saying an awful lot. Earlier this month, for instance, the Welsh Assembly made smoking in cars with a child present illegal. In its short existence, the Welsh Assembly has introduced measures that have ranged from enforcing healthy eating in schools to ensuring that local authorities are ‘supporting’ (that is, intervening in) family life.
The picture is much the same in London. When Boris Johnson was elected mayor of London in 2008, his first measure, passed within a few days of his being elected, was to ban drinking alcohol on the Tube. Across London, local authorities are currently killing off the city’s vibrant nighttime economy with endless health-and-safety regulations.
Such petty measures don’t tackle any major problems. In fact, the problems they claim to address are often invented. But they do create a more restrictive and authoritarian society. However, the intolerant measures introduced by the Welsh and London assemblies are positively libertarian when compared with what’s happening north of the border in the Scottish Parliament.
In March this year, a 24-year-old fan of Rangers, the largely Protestant-supported Glasgow football team, was jailed for four months for singing ‘The Billy Boys’, an old anti-Catholic ditty that Rangers fans have been singing for years to wind up fans of Celtic, their largely Catholic-supported rivals. He was arrested, found guilty of songcrimes and sent down. It’s all down to the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act. Introduced in 2012 by the largest party in Scotland, the Scottish National Party (SNP), the act outlaws ‘behaviour of any kind’ at or around football matches that is ‘threatening’ or which a ‘reasonable person would be likely to consider offensive’. The law has led to Celtic fans being arrested in dawn raids for the crime of singing pro-IRA songs, while Rangers fans have been hauled to court for chanting unsavoury things about Catholics.
The SNP has also taken to policing Scots’ eating, drinking and smoking habits. It was the first part of the UK to introduce the smoking ban. Earlier this year, it announced a ban on smoking in cars when children are present. The SNP is now considering a ban on smoking in parks and plans to hike up the tax on booze – as if alcohol wasn’t expensive enough in pubs and bars. But it is in the Children and Young People Act where the irrational but deeply authoritarian instinct of the devolved assemblies reaches its zenith.
Due to come into force in August 2016, this act plans to assign a ‘named person’, a state-approved guardian, to every baby born in Scotland, in order to monitor people from birth up to the age of 18. It is, in essence, a form of shadow parenting and effectively makes all Scottish children wards of the state. As Brendan O’Neill has pointed out, the Scottish Parliament is ‘creating a truly cradle-to-grave system of state meddling in people’s lives, where from birth to adulthood, and everywhere from football games to the pub, from the CCTV-saturated streets to your local restaurant, you’re being watched, finger-wagged at, told what you can and can’t say’. One writer declared that crossing the border into Scotland now means ‘crossing into what is becoming a foreign land, in which the dominant political mindset is separatist, statist and bossy’.
What’s going on? How did the creation of new forms of representative democracy in the UK lead to such a stifling, illiberal and miserable state of affairs? When Tony Blair’s New Labour government introduced devolved legislatures in 1997, with parliament voting in favour of new representative assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the following year, it was hailed as a way of extending and revitalising UK democracy. Citizens in regional areas would have a ‘greater say’ on what happens to issues that supposedly affect them directly. And through the use of proportional-representation systems, the devolved assemblies would be more representative of the popular vote than in Westminster. A shift from the unitary state of Old Britain to the quasi-federalism of New Britain would help to create a more dynamic, responsive and, above all, representative system of government. Or, at least, that’s the story that was being sold.
There’s no doubt, of course, that electoral reform can have an impact on political life. The use of PR systems can facilitate the rise of multi-party contests and, in theory at least, create more choice at the ballot box. The phenomenal rise of the SNP in Scotland, which took 56 out of the 59 Scottish seats in the recent General Election, is partially a consequence of the Scottish Parliament, in which the SNP has held a majority since 2007. The party’s success in the Scottish Parliament has paved the way for an increase in support for Scottish independence. According to many commentators, the introduction of some devolved powers in Scotland has engaged Scottish citizens in ways that appear alien and unnerving to the Westminster village.
Behind all the constitutional hyperbole, though, the devolved assemblies don’t quite enjoy as much legitimacy as electoral reformers and Scottish nationalists like to make out. Apart from 1999, the first year that Scots could vote in Scottish Parliament elections, voter turnout has hovered between 49 and 51 per cent. It’s hardly a ringing endorsement. Voter turnout for the elections in the Welsh Assembly is even lower – a paltry 38 per cent in the 2003 election and 42 per cent in the 2011 election. For the majority of ordinary citizens in Scotland and Wales, the new assemblies are seen as having no real power to improve people’s lives. They are often likened to glorified church parishes whose only purpose is to create a new layer of bureaucracy and a new set of professional politicians.
The trouble here, though, is that ministers in the Welsh Assembly or the Scottish Parliament instinctively understand that the devolved assemblies aren’t powerhouses of decision-making. Local assemblies may be able to make decisions on collecting the bins, sorting out street lighting or tinkering with transport, but they’re not in a position to make a substantial difference to a region’s economy. They’re not in a position to implement changes that can improve infrastructure or affect the lives of people in any meaningful way. Instead, they have the power to meddle, interfere and restrict ordinary people’s day-to-day behaviour. They’re meaningless institutions desperately in search of meaning. So, in order to create a sense of purpose, to show they’re more than just talking shops, the devolved assemblies introduce fresh bans, new laws and more red tape. Yes, banning e-cigarettes in public places or placing all children under state surveillance doesn’t make much rational sense. But for a minister seeking to justify their existence, such policies make perfect sense.
The other malign impact of the devolved assemblies is that they have encouraged activists to embrace regional identities at the expense of national or traditional class identities. Rather than seeking common solutions to problems that affect the majority of people in the UK, short-term regional gains are becoming more appealing. It creates a new dynamic whereby activists are more likely to defend all sorts of authoritarian measures that they would object to if Westminster had introduced them. The SNP congratulates itself for demolishing the Labour Party’s support in Scotland, only to introduce controls and bans that make New Labour appear like a collection of commune-dwelling anarchists. As anyone who has argued with SNP members will know, they’re bizarrely incapable of making any critical judgements about their party’s poisonous authoritarianism. The centrality of Scottish identity is a way through which politics is now suspended north of the border. All of these developments show that the UK is heading the same way as Spain, whereby regional loyalties trump the interests of a national centre.
Far from revitalising democracy and representation, the devolved assemblies have amplified the illiberal impulses of 21st-century politics. In their quest for a reason to exist, devolved assemblies have had to devise new ways in which to surveil, control and restrict people’s day-to-day lives. The devolved assemblies were founded as part of a window-dressing attempt to sharpen up UK politics, but they’ve become another blunt instrument of authoritarian bureaucracy. In the interests of safeguarding liberties and rights, we should do the decent thing and abolish the lot of them.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.