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Thursday, September 29, 2022

UKROMANIA: The Texican War of 2072

From my Substack column - why not join for FREE updates?

This is set in a parallel universe; you can draw some parallels…


Seen in retrospect, the war was inevitable.

It was a long time coming. Back in 2041 the United States had fallen apart under the pressure of globalism, the FIRE economy and the over-concentration of wealth while public squalor grew. Out of the flames arose a new American Federation comprising most of the States and with a fresh Constitution, the nation’s third - as Jefferson had rightly said, the dead have no power over the living.

Most of the States, but not all. The ancient Mexican possessions had developed a different identity as their populations swelled with migration from the south. A group of territories including Colorado, New Mexico, Baja California and Arizona declared independence. Recognising that they were weak individually, over a period of years each joined the Latin American Union (LAU), flying its flag, a circlet of stars on a red ground, alongside its own.

Joining the LAU also meant becoming members of the Central American Treaty Organisation (CATO), sponsored by China and ostensibly formed to resist imperialist aggression. The creeping acquisition of non-aligned States had gone on despite Mexico’s assurances to the contrary, and made the government in Washington nervous. Accordingly, CATO had wisely desisted, at that stage, from stationing nuclear missiles in these areas.

One former US State with old Mexican links had remained neutral: Texas.

Potentially, Texas had vital military and economic significance. Its northern border was only some 500 miles from the AF’s Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. In the south, its western edge was a mere 100 miles or so from Monterrey and its eastern shores were in a position to control naval activity and maritime trade in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico.

Texas had a challenge to maintain order, what with the notorious corruption of its post-independence political establishment, the power of the oligarchs and the tensions beween its Hispanic and Anglophone communities. The government in Austin tried to maintain a balance between its two great neighbours, despite financial blandishments from both sides, but it was only a matter of time before somebody shook its tree.

For the hawks of Mexico City, the prize was too great to resist; it was the key to unravelling the American Federation. They coveted the immense natural and energy resources of the AF. Also, they disliked President Jackson, now in his sixteenth year of office. The President had disciplined the super-bandits that had been eating the country alive and he was popular with his voters, despite being portrayed abroad as an evil tyrant. He was proving himself a tough old bird.

It was time to pluck his feathers.

Mexico’s foreign intelligence agency, the CNI, decided on a policy of ‘overextending and unbalancing’ the Jackson regime, initially without direct military confrontation.

Canada was to be useful, having fault lines that could be exploited. There was the simmering separatism of Quebec, so mischievously played by France’s President de Gaulle on his visit in 1967; the enduring links between the Francophone populace there and their relations in New England; the activism of First Nation peoples of both countries, whose ancestral lands in many cases straddled the border; even some Georgist factions, descendants of the royalists who had been forced to flee revolutionary America three centuries before.

Accordingly, various Canadian provinces broke out in conflicts that spilled over into the northern AF; distractions that were difficult and expensive for the latter to settle, that soured relations with Ottawa and further served to confirm Jackson’s international profile as a warlike imperialist and oppressor of dissidents.

The hour seemed right to ignite the Lone Star State. In 2063 the President of Texas, urged by the LAU/CATO to submit to them, had opted instead for a closer-but-fraternal relationship with the American Federation, and a seemingly spontaneous wave of demonstrations broke out in Austin; perhaps not unconnected with Mexico’s CNI, whose Head had been spotted in the city at the time - there were even bizarre reports of snipers who shot not at one side but both.

The revolution in the following year replaced the President with another who not only agreed to join the LAU but set out to make Spanish the official language across the whole country (five years later in 2069, the Texan government passed a law to make Spanish compulsory in schools, universities and many other areas, including official departments, electoral procedures and political campaigning.)

This clove the nation in two. The predominantly English-speaking areas in the north understood that they would be victimised; the AF’s President Jackson annexed a portion of the territory and helped the citizens declare independence in a referendum. The new Texan President immediately sent large forces to besiege the Anglophone separatists and the shelling of Dallas began. A trilateral commission sought to resolve the conflict through regionalisation, but the ‘Austin agreements’ were never fully implemented.

After five years in office the President of Texas was himself deposed, partly because he was seen as grossly corrupt; his successor, President Zapata, came in on a platform of cleansing corruption and seeking to make peace, things he had promoted in his previous career as a television satirist. He soon became a cat’s-paw of the oligarchs who still effectively ran the Lone Star State; the oppression of the Anglophones continued and intensified. The Texan Army not only fought the northern militias but in towns where they gained a foothold they set up snipers to shoot civilians going about their daily business.

Jackson had started to champion the interests of former US citizens who now found themselves domiciled in post-collapse satellite states, often experiencing discrimination as English-speaking minority communities. A survey conducted in the AF - it’s not clear whose initiative this was - put Texas as the top place where Americans felt their former compatriots to be persecuted. The narrative suggested that part of Jackson’s role was to take action on behalf of ex-Americans.

After eight years of unarguably severe provocation, Jackson did what most of his voters thought right and much of the rest of the Western world saw as inexcusably wrong: he invaded Texas to combat the Lone Star forces.

This was a godsend for the LAU, who continued to stand off but provided enormous help in the form of money and arms, military training and advice. Jackson had fallen into their trap: Texas would be his Vietnam.

The personable and vigorous Zapata used his PR and entertainment skills to promote the image of the Austin government as victims. The Latin internet burst out in Lone Star flags, pro-American sites were censored, Zapata was invited to address foreign national assemblies and even open a session of the Mexican Stock Exchange to signal his willingness for Texas to be opened up to LAU capital.

Another attempt to make peace, in April 2072, was stymied when the British Prime Minister flew into Austin to tell Zapata that it would not be accepted by… those that mattered, even though continuation of the conflict was seriously hurting vital trade between the AF and northern members of the LAU.

The pro-Texan propaganda became so one-sided that even a distinguished journalist merely asking for open discussion felt forced to salt his article with condemnations of Jackson: ‘a sinister tyrant’, ‘regards dissent as treason’, ‘the invasion (w)as barbaric, lawless and stupid’, Jackson’s ‘idiotic crime, which has done limitless damage to the peace and security of that country for decades to come and perhaps forever.’

The rest of this old and tragic tale, you know.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

WEEKENDER: Hits the Ground Running? by Wiggia

                                                           


This is the new Health Secretary, I have never cared about what someone looks like or their ’charisma’; my only concern is that they do the job they are paid for. In the case of the new Health Secretary I already have doubts, not because of the above photo but simply because she has no knowledge of the NHS and is a ‘friend' of the PM; that alone suggests nepotism and lack of merit in getting the job. If I am proved wrong, then good.


Most of us know what is wrong with the NHS; we have to put up with its shortcomings on an almost daily basis.


Sadly as is the case with all newly appointed officials that want to appear to hit the ground running, though in this case that conjures images I won't go into, n announcement is made re GPs and appointments:                                                                                                                                                                              


The woman is deluded if she thinks making such a statement will make the slightest difference to our everyday experiences.


And within minutes of the announcement representatives of GPs were saying it is impossible to implement the pledge. Today in the Times a GP makes a claim that GPs are tired with workload they are having to support; perhaps she should put her head round the door of our surgery and see if she can find more than two GPs on the premises, out of eight, on any working day. Methinks they do protest to much.


But it gives an example of what any health secretary is up against: radical reform is needed but won't come from statements such as the one above.


This is no different to the announcement by the then health secretary under Cameron who declared we would all have choice over the GPs and surgeries we can go to, the result of which was an actual decline in all choices. Still, the revolving door of opportunity keeps these people from ever having to account for their proclamations.


The intention as with this one is to buy time, to be seen to be doing something, when the truth is that only a radical change in the GP set up will change anything.


As we pay them with our taxes there should be a revision of their contract. We don’t pay them to choose to work one day a week for the same salary as many now are, and the students who are currently studying and stating they have no intention of working more than three days should be told that they work five days a week for say ten years in the NHS, as again the taxpayer has paid for their tuition and demand a Quid pro quo in return.


At this moment in time we pay and receive a third world service at best in return; in a sane world that should not be allowed to continue.


I don’t even have to go into the reasons why the statement is just that, words. If you can’t even get someone to answer the phone at the surgery how are you going to enforce your ‘rights’? Time for someone serious to take charge of the NHS and all who sail in her.


At the same time Rosie Cooper MP for West Lancashire has stood down from being the MP for that constituency at the age of 72, to take the lucrative position as the Chair of Mersey Trust at a time in life most have retired. This woman has only become an MP after five attempts with three different parties? And despite some political alliances with health matters has never run anything of substance.

Her reason for changing careers is said to be because of death threats, but it took this offer a couple of years and much ‘soul searching’ to jump ship. It seems the revolving door is still revolving. Is this really the best they could come up with? Nothing changes, especially within the NHS or the political establishment.

Friday, September 23, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Fauré's Requiem

 Well it has been a strange couple of weeks and the funeral and interment were spectacular, if a little 'over the top': I thought Monday's procession/parade was too long and the Queen's coffin got lost from view in that multitude of service personnel. Camera angles may have had a lot to do with that, I don't know.

So to round off this part of history here is Faure's Requiem in full. It is by far the best in my opinion because it has a positive 'feel' to it. I see it as a musical affirmation of transcendence rather than an ending of a life.

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Gabriel Fauré (1845 - 1924) composed his Requiem in D minor, Op. 48, between 1887 and 1890. His reasons for composing the work are unclear, but do not appear to have had anything to do with the death of his parents in the mid-1880s. He composed the work in the late 1880s and revised it in the 1890s, finishing it in 1900.

Fauré wrote of the work, "Everything I managed to entertain by way of religious illusion I put into my Requiem, which moreover is dominated from beginning to end by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest."

The piece premiered in its first version in 1888 in La Madeleine in Paris for a funeral Mass.


Faure Requiem Op.48
Gabriel Fauré (Composer), Robert Shaw (Conductor), Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus (Orchestra), Judith Blegen (Soprano), James Morris (Baritone)

1. Introït et Kyrie (D minor) 0:00
2. Offertoire (B minor) 6:24
3. Sanctus (E-flat major) 14:36
4. Pie Jesu (B-flat major) 18:07
5. Agnus Dei et Lux Aeterna (F major) 21:48
6. Libera Me (D minor) 27:55
7. In Paradisum (D major) 32:16

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Only disaster can save us !

President Biden’s melodramatic speech in Philadelphia was an amped-up reprise of Hillary Clinton’s in Reno back in 2016: a combination of bogeyman politics with a promise to do something for the people.

It’s hard to tear our gaze away from the dirty tricks both sides are playing now, but really it’s the plans for the country’s reconstruction we should be considering. The question is, do they go far enough, or are they merely intended to get the Democratic Party safely through this November’s mid-term elections?

For example, there’s the Student Loan Relief scheme announced on 24 August. The $10k-$20k for qualifying applicants will be some help, yet not really solve the problem of the big debts and high interest charges. At an estimated cost to the taxpayers of half a trillion dollars (or even double that) it’s a very expensive token gesture. (It may also be technically illegal, if Biden has really declared the end of the pandemic.)

A more significant move would be to rescind the 2005 law - which Biden himself supported - that made it impossible for students to cancel their debt by declaring bankruptcy; that would make banks much more careful in assessing whether the chosen academic course was likely to boost the graduate’s earnings sufficiently to justify the lender’s risk.

Then there’s the ‘we beat Big Pharma!’ crowing over reducing the cost of prescription drugs, which on closer inspection won’t take effect before 2025, applies to a limited number of medications and won’t seriously impact that industry’s profits.

The recently released Biden-⁠Harris Economic Blueprint has much more in it and it remains to be seen how much of that is also subject to the death of a thousand provisos. The New York Post called it ‘58 pages of malarkey’ and ‘ financially illiterate’ and Fortune said it was ‘a love letter to the unions’; well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?

At Philadelphia Biden boasted ‘the largest economic recovery package since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’, yet the comparison is more like a contrast. One doesn’t feel there’s a real challenge to what Bernie Sanders has termed America’s oligarchs. Maybe it’s because the Democrats just don’t sense they are strong enough.

In 1933 the nation was in a five-star disaster; goodness knows how many Americans died of starvation, disease exacerbated by malnutrition, deaths of despair. Some who didn’t know what things were really like in Russia were beginning to think Communism looked a better option. In came FDR and warned in his inaugural address that if necessary he would use ‘broad Executive power’ to deal with the emergency. Among many other measures, he swiftly allowed some banks to fail and regulated others, in particular passing the ‘Glass-Steagall’ Act to keep depositors’ money separate from speculative investment banking.

In 1999, President Clinton - a Democrat - declared that the Act was ‘no longer appropriate’ and signed off its repeal, a step that some see as a major contributory factor in the Global Financial Crisis a few years afterward.

When, a decade later, another Democrat - President Obama - came to power, many people, myself included, had great hope that he would use the crisis and the deep support of the people to cleanse the Augean stables of high finance; but no.

I still can’t work out whether these two suffered a failure of nerve or were simply colluding with enormously powerful forces, ones that have kept down the workers and sucked up the economic growth of decades for themselves, and are even now buying up farmland and residential property wholesale so that they will control the nation’s food and turn its people into perma-renters.

The young are burdened with inescapable college debts, cannot afford to buy a house and have children, cannot support a family on one income… the cheerful, stand-on-your-own-two-feet Fred and Wilma Flintstone lifestyle is receding beyond their grasp. The growing demographic imbalance may make mass worker-age immigration necessary even as it magnifies the scale of America’s systemic difficulties.

The dysfunctional economy is in some ways as bad as back in 1933, but disguised by ‘magic money’ and terrifying levels of debt, otherwise surely something really big would have to be done now.

‘Getting’ Trump and the MAGA louts will only tackle the symptoms. The longer effective treatment is deferred, the greater will be the crisis. Better, perhaps, to desist from party politicking and admit that major catastrophe is upon us.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Remembering the Queen

 

Pietro Annigoni painted this in 1955, when the Queen was in her late twenties. I remember seeing it on the wall of the Sergeants’ Mess where we, the wife and children of an officer, had the rare honour to be invited to join their whist drive. The sergeants are known as the backbone of the Army and their privileges are jealously guarded.

Now according to Wikipedia the depiction was ‘criticised for its romantic treatment and for prioritising Elizabeth's role as the monarch over insights into her inner life.’ It is difficult to respond politely to such an insensitive perception.

It is not a picture of a woman but of a royal monarch. Queen Elizabeth is wearing the Order of the Garter, which dates back to 1348 and ‘is dedicated to the image and arms of Saint George, England's patron saint.’ The sober cloak and the Queen’s mien speak of her solemn and steely dedication to the service of her people. No wonder the sergeants - and the public generally - loved it.

The muted colours of the sky and surrounding landscape also suggest the challenges facing the country, great ones in those first years after a war that had bankrupted us in the fight to preserve civilisation, and yet made us pull together and look after one another as we had not done before. It was to be a new and better world for us all.

On her twenty-first birthday eight years earlier, the then Princess vowed:
I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.
The Empire was on its way out, but the Commonwealth of Nations grew to fifty-six member states during her reign and her diplomacy will have been part of the reason why many of them thought fit to join.

The Queen kept her word and symbolised the unity and mutual commitment of our people. That is why many thousands have queued day after day, even overnight, to pay their respects in Westminster Hall.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Saturday, September 17, 2022

WEEKENDER: Overkill, the Media Circus, by Wiggia


Like the majority of the population I will be watching the pageantry surrounding the death and burial of Queen Elizabeth 11. Not only was she a remarkable woman in the role she played for seventy years, but in many ways her going is a final break with the past glories of this nation, it will not be and cannot be repeated.


Her funeral will be an event we do better than any other nation on this earth. Previous ones such as Churchill’s, still just within living memory, are examples of that, as was the Queen's coronation which as a child I witnessed; historic events that stay in the mind of those who witness them for the rest of their lives, I have no doubt that next Monday will be no different.


In many ways considering the appalling state we and the west are now in, it is as if a full stop has been imposed on an era that not only had the Queen reigning over us as a figurehead reminding us of past greatness but also her passing signifies the end of a nation of Empire and our standing in the world. Much of that had already gone yet the presence of the Queen softened the decline that we  see all around us. I am sure she was aware of the fact but at least she will not have to see the end product.


All that for those that care is common knowledge.


What we are witnessing at this moment in time is the total overkill by the media in the endless blanket coverage of all items to do with the death of our monarch. Past similar events did not have social media or umpteen TV channels to record everything or relay endless interviews with people of no interest and little consequence, but I write this with a week to go and already TV channels are repeating items that have already been flogged to death.


The initial silence, promoted straight away by David Starkey, over the status and more of the Harry and Megan saga that is a threat to the main focus of this funeral lasted hardly as long as his request. Analysis of one appearance in public and an impending book soon to be published gets more and more airtime when the whole issue should be parked till after the funeral.


GB news as an example, has abandoned everything unless there is a connection to the Queen's death. We are being reduced to examining the minutiae of items for the sake of it, simply to fill air time. The presenters will have been wearing black so long that afterwards we will be finding it difficult to imagine them dressed in any other way.


Even someone like the aforementioned David Starkey who I would in normal circumstances gladly watch and listen to even if he was reading the weather forecast, is being used to endlessly plug gaps in airtime to the point of being tedious.


The never ending interrogation of the Sussexes, and will the brothers ever speak to one another again, has reached the stage when 'body language experts', behavioural psychologists and others are being used to continue the examination of their behaviour, when the only obvious fact is Kate looks like she could kill Megan, and she may or may not have reason, but that is all.


In some ways all this should be expected. It is now the way of the world: tittle tattle. Social media has reduced events to endless sound bites. Fortunately despite all this the main event won’t (we hope) be diminished.


This type of presentation has been expanding for some years. The introduction has became a six part play: no longer do you get a half hour summary in the run up to the Cup Final, you get a whole morning where everyone from the managers to the beverage providers is asked for an opinion and then asked again.


The public can no longer be allowed to watch and form their own opinion. It is the media equivalent of the ‘nudge’ unit forever pushing other opinions in our direction to the exclusion of all else.

Sadly the public have assimilated all this and over time have become the putty in it all, never questioning whether this the way forward is the right way: it is almost as though they prefer the media and the government to determine the amount of emotion that should be displayed.


The Diana effect has become the norm and is used as a template.


And the media milk it and encourage it with another of those overused phrases that appear at times like this, ‘the outpouring of grief was self evident‘ said x reporter on the ground, despite no real evidence of it. Whatever happened to the stoic approach that was the norm? Today we are encouraged by those same TV experts on air to show one's emotions as if in a competition; we are as one commenter said, ‘in a world of emotional incontinence’.


Fortunately one doesn’t have to sit there for eighteen hours a day listening and viewing padded-out time-filling nonsense, all one has to do is view the main event as that is all you will remember; judicious use of the off button will do wonders for your sanity.