Category Archives: politics

For a’ That and a’ That…

Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an’ a’ that;
The coward slave-we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that.
Our toils obscure an’ a’ that,
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp,
The Man’s the gowd for a’ that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hodden grey, an’ a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A man’s a man for a’ that:
For a’ that, and a’ that,
Their tinsel show, an’ a’ that;
The honest man, tho’ e’er sae poor,
Is king o’ men for a’ that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca’d a lord,
Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that;
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a cuif for a’ that:
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
His ribband, star, an’ a’ that:
The man o’ independent mind
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an’ a’ that;
But an honest man’s abon his might,
Gude faith, he maunna fa’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Their dignities an’ a’ that;
The pith o’ sense, an’ pride o’ worth,
Are higher rank than a’ that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a’ that,)
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s coming yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man, the world o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that.

But it won’t come unless we make it so

We have to have trust in ourselves and in each other: open our eyes and our minds, have confidence in our joint ability to create the decent society we all need in order to be the best we can.

We have to stop the rape of the commonweal by private interest; put roofs over heads and food on the table – and this not only in ‘poor’ countries, but in first world countries too where the cynical ruination of the national wealth is blamed on the greed, incompetence, immorality of the very people who are the first victims of that system.

And how do we do it?

For a first step we must stop allowing our masters to divide us: recognise that the ‘benefit scroungers’ are those who avoid tax, whose companies are given the unemployed as cheap or free labour, who award themselves pay and benefits out of all proportion to any benefit they bring to those said companies.

Starve them of funds…don’t use their companies.

Then stop voting for party candidates, locally and nationally.

I know that local government in the U.K. is a broken reed, kept on a short rein by central government and then used as an Aunt Sally to bring the democratic process into disrepute.

We need properly independent councillors who will not toe party lines, who will explain to their constituents exactly why their services are going to hell in a handcart and to take a firm hand on the remuneration packages of their officials.

Only with a solid structure of local government can we hope to reclaim national government from the party system and to build that structure we need to recreate communities – genuine ones, not the artificially empowered ‘communities’  which have a symbiotic relationship with the power structure in which their self appointed leaders deliver the votes and in turn have the recognition – and the funds – to dominate those who are forced to depend on them for a voice..

It is a long road…but our parents and their parents have walked it before us.

We may be but dwarfs on the shoulders of those giants…but what giants!

For their belief in justice they faced what we do not – the gallows.

We have their blood, we have the memory of their sacrifice, we can not only resist, but we can win.

Happy New Year to you all.

26 Comments

Filed under community, politics, relationships

Offended of Kensal Rise Trumps Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells

kenal-rise

What the blazes am I to do for a newspaper after Brexit and Trump?

Costa Rican ones very between po faced publicity for the party which lost the last election and photographs of the sheets covering victims of murder and traffic accidents – not forgetting the obligatory girl not quite showing her all while striking a pose which would puzzle an Olympic gymnast and the imprisonment of Cuba Dave for promoting sex tourism in Costa Rica contrary to the Human Trafficking Law of 2013.

Personally I do not think that he is singlehandedly responsible for the (mostly) North American men in muscle shirts frequenting what are euphemistically known as ‘gentlemen’s clubs’ in Gringo Gulch in San Jose, but it would be tactless to close these establishments as otherwise well connected Costa Rican gentlemen not wearing muscle shirts would have nowhere to go in the evenings.

warum-der-bekannteste-sextourist-der-welt-in-costa-rica-im-gefaengnis-landete-body-image-1473949928

I still occasionally read my old local rag from France….well kent faces beam from the group photographs of the class of  1958 about to set off for a day trip into the unknown some fifty kilometres away, or it might feature shifty looking maires inaugurating something built or repaired by their brothers in law. As one of them once said to me….

As long as the name is different they can’t say it’s favouritism…’

I’ve given up on Le Figaro and Liberation….the former is obsessed with finding the right wing candidate capable of defeating Marine Le Pen of the Front National and the latter obsessed with working out how the Socialist Party is ever going to survive having Francois Hollande as President of France.

Most of my French friends are more worried about how France itself will survive the presidency of Francois Hollande…..the only penguin known to advance on thin ice bearing his own flamethrower…

U.S. newspapers? The New York Times has a good cookery section but otherwise the national level spectrum seems to be obsessed with bemoaning the sheer damned cheek of those who voted for Trump when told by those who know that they should not.

There may be exceptions, but I am not well enough acquainted with the sector to have discovered them.

So, back to the U.K. newspapers….

Growing up there were always newspapers in the house …I even had my own copy of ‘The Children’s Newspaper’ delivered to the house alongside my father’s (then) ‘Manchester Guardian’  – for information – and ‘The Daily Mail’ – for the horse racing tips, but which afforded me the pleasure of the strip cartoon ‘Flook’

flook

I had become fond of strip cartoons when visiting my mother’s mother who had stackpiled copies of ‘Chick’s Own’ where ‘big’ words were hyphenated,  from the 1920s and issued them to visiting children when the weather was too wet to sit in the garden.

I can still see – and smell – the formal room with the horse hair filled leather sofas, from whose slippery surfaces the comics would slip to the ground and have to be restored to pristine order before adult disapproval was manifested.

I know that ‘The Daily Mirror’ entered my grandmother’s house  – probably down to grandfather’s influence – as I remember not only ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’ but also the later strip cartoon of ‘The Perishers’ whose annual highlight was the holiday by the seaside where the crabs inhabiting a rock pool had built a whole religion around the appearance of ‘the eyeballs in the sky’ as Boot the dog peered into the depths.

eyeballs-in-the-sky

Religious dissidents, or those who attempted to forward a scientific explanation for the eyeballs in the sky, were silenced by the high priest with the threat of ‘a cakehole full of claw’….

As time went by I began to read the newspapers…the ‘Manchester Guardian’ became ‘The Guardian’…’the Daily Worker’ became ‘The Morning Star’…’The Socialist Worker’ made a brief appearance…and I took ‘The Times for the Law Reports.

At that time, though each newspaper had its policy preferences, they did manage to report news. The reaction to such would appear in the ‘Letters to the Editor’ column, whence the generic term for choleric supporters of old fashioned moeurs – ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ – a town popularly supposed to be peopled by half pay colonels of the Indian Army and their memsahibs,  sniffing the wind for the least hint of subversion of established morality.

But things have changed.

In return for electoral support, governments have allowed foreign ownership of the national press…and as that foreign ownership has acquired global power, the politicians make their first kow-tow not to the people who were mad enough to elect them but to the press barons upon whose organs (to use the phrase beloved of ‘Private Eye’) they rely to maintain them in power.

Power has shifted from the politicians – the political parties – to the press, whose interest is that of maintaining their proprietors’ power.

News? Properly reported?

Forget it.

The readership is plied with tarts, tits and totty in the manner of a modern Eatanswill in the press aimed at the lower orders – in moral, rather than economic terms – and with flattery, foodery and fart arsery for those who believe themselves to be superior to the masses.

Thus ‘The Guardian’, made independent by ownership by a trust, stood out.

It was never a newspaper of the left despite the years in the 60s where it displayed a conscience; it was always a newspaper of the soi disant enlightened bourgeoisie who kept their hand on their halfpennies while giving lip service to moral causes.

But it was all there was…so it was the first newspaper I turned to for news and opinion.

Until opinion overtook news, just as had happened in the organs of the press barons.

The Brexit campaign brought out ‘The Guardian’s version of Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells…but now the disgusted were not the readers but the columnists….those who were busy ‘gentrifying’ the suburbs of London like Kensal Rise where Edwardian terraced houses became desirable residences – once they had been stripped of their character – and where the local shops had been taken over by ‘organic’ butchers and high priced coffee shops.

These columnists were disgusted that it was possible to think of an alternative to membership of the European Union…those who opposed them must be part of the Great Unwashed…the very people whose interests they and their type had ignored for more than a generation: the people whose children had suffered a diminution in educational provision: the  people whose trade unions had been broken: the people who could no longer rely on a job which paid well enough to bring up a family in stable conditions.

News? Properly reported?

Forget it.

So tell me: where do now I go for news…real news?

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Filed under Brexit, news reporting,, Uncategorized

I Cannot Hear You

high-court-judges

A phrase arising to the lips of judges who are improperly addressed, or who are addressed by advocates improperly dressed..or, horror of horrors… a combination of both.

A High Court judge  – his Lordship – does not relish being addressed as ‘Your Honour’ and certainly not if the person so addressing them is not in  appropriate court dress – or in a variant of court dress which, while possibly fashionable, has not been blessed by the custom of  ages.

Quaint, you might think…but it is an attitude not confined to the courts.

Brexit and the  American Presidential election have made it clear that those not observing the norms cannot be heard…well, at least, not with respect for their views.

When at school, we were taught that we must make – and appreciate on the part of our opponent – a reasoned argument.

Fine…we were taught logic, we appreciated the breadth of the English language and we could cite backing for our views. We knew how to debate within the norms.

Work taught me that people could make a case without those refinements, from their experience, from their own vocabulary – and from their sense of justice.

It was the job of the professional to put that case into the Procrustean bed of the law, to allow it to be heard with a chance of success.

The Procrustean bed seems to have expanded in recent years, to include political expression – as reflected in the media.

I should here declare an interest.

Had I been eligible, I would have voted for the U.K. to leave the European Union.

Thus, according to the ‘bien pensant’ media I am an ignorant racist.

It is not acceptable to say that you do not conform to the comfortable ‘bien pensant’ way of thought:  the way of thought of those who live a life divorced from need, from insecurity, from hope destroyed, who have no empathy with those whose experience tells them that the current system has nothing to offer them or their children.

The lesson from Brexit and from the downfall of Clinton is that we should learn to listen to each other, to take each others’ concerns seriously, even if those concerns are couched in a language or in a fashion which appears to us to be improperly dressed.

But I’m not holding my breath.

 

Addendum…somewhat foul mouthed, but heartfelt.

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Filed under Brexit, Uncategorized

Life in a Small Country

tree cr

I live in a small country….nobody bothers much about it on the international scene with the exception of the U.S.A. when it wants a springboard for overthrowing other regimes in Central America, China when it wants non recognition of Taiwan and the exploitative Greens with their carbon exchange scam.

Its government is content to exploit its own people without bothering about those of other countries, doesn’t have an arms industry or even an army, runs an appalling fiscal deficit and bumps along from month to month and hand to mouth.

After life in two European countries trying to pretend that they are still world powers it is quite relaxing.

Had I still been living in the U.K. I would have voted to leave the E.U.: I hadn’t wanted to enter the original free trade area either and nothing since – not even the vestigial aid of European legislation to the protection of workers in the U.K. under Thatcher – has made me change my mind.

Twenty years in France reinforced my views…

The British system in which I had grown up had little in common with that of France.

We might  have had a common heritage  in the Western Church, but that was about all…

Napoleon had taken his authoritarian regime all over the continent and there its legacy stayed…keep your mouth shut, keep your head down and do as you are told.

Unless you are rich.

And this is the regime which has come to the U.K. with its accession to the  pan European regime.

The possession of money – by whatever means – gives immunity not only from the law,but from moral responsibility.

When I consider that we used to think Reginald Maudling and John Poulson as the epitome of corruption the mind boggles: today we have E.U. accounts that can never be signed off…commissioners paying their dentists with E.U. jobs…and the Common Agricultural Policy siphoning money to the big producers to the detriment of the family farms in order to subsidise the agroalimentary industry.

Next time you buy a pot of Danone yogurt seek the taste of corruption within.

The U.K.has, to the shock of its masters, voted to leave the E.U.

This is represented as a disaster.

To me, it seems like an opportunity.

A chance for the U.K.  to become a small country.

The imperial dream is long gone: could not the U.K. do without being an obedient satellite of the U.S.A., throwing the children of its young into wars which assist only foreign corporations?

Could not the U.K. revive the values of the post war settlement in order to found a future in which young people do not have to bankrupt themselves while obtaining an inferior education?

Could the U.K.not rediscover its talents without the limitation of an exterior straitjacket of rules and regulations?

And, most of all, could the U.K.not become a force for peace in the world?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Brexit, Uncategorized

Drink, drink, drink…

Here is Will Fyffe, actor and music hall star, singing the song for which he is best known…’I belong to Glasgow’…ostensibly the tale of a man sure neither of his balance nor his syllables as he makes his way back to the bosom of his wife after celebrating the end of the working  week in the company of his pals.

Not, by the sound of things, that he would have passed the ‘Wee Deoch an’ Dorus’ test:

There’s a wee wifie waitin’ in a wee but an ben.
If you can say, “It’s a braw bricht moonlicht nicht”,
Then yer a’richt, ye ken.

Try it yourself and see how you do…

Still, his character’s fate at the hands of his wife apart, Mr.Fyffe’s character exposes the  atmosphere of the time: he and his kind, the working man, who made the country what it is (was) are treated with contumely by the rich who pass them in their motor cars as they weave their unsteady way home on foot..

Mr Fyffe’s character asks how those rich made their money: answer – from him and his kind.

He further asks what the rich actually do: answer- they ‘do’ (cheat) him and his kind.

Sounds familiar? Yes.

Nothing has changed? No….

There was change: the post war settlement of the late forties and fifties aimed to ensure acceptable housing, proper education and guaranteed health services for all, not just for the few.

It had its faults -but over all it produced a  society where the threat of destitution no longer existed should you be too young, too old or to infirm to work.

And then came Thatcher, who declared that there was no such thing as society.

Who deregulated financial services.

Who willfully destroyed core national industries in order to break organised labour.

And son of Thatcher….Blair…under whom Britain became the money laundering centre of the world, while the people his party used to claim to represent went to the wall: jobless and despised.

And now we have Cameron: no programmes to promote industrial growth, zero hours contracts and demonisation of the poor.

In the agricultural depression of the late eighteenth century the magistrates of Speenhamland in Berkshire decided to aid the poor by topping up their wages -the idea being to keep them from following the example of the French peasants whose revolution was going on at the time.

Needless to say, as the burden of payment fell on the very landowners who were underpaying their workforce it was not at all popular.

The modern way is to put up the wages of those who work for skinflint employers by finding it from general taxation – which falls less and less on the very rich thanks to cosy understandings with the taxman.

The modern way is to undermine family life by making it impossible to have what was once known as a steady job…

No wonder people take to drink….

 

And no wonder they effect the same betrayal of love and trust as did the ‘Student Prince’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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33 Comments

Filed under politics, Uncategorized, unemployment

Bring Back Gladstone

candidatesWill it be the man in the suit who buggered up my mobile ‘phone or will it be the one who looks as if he has just been ejected from Tracey Emin’s unmade bed?
The woman who knows all the facts, or the silver haired man ‘who has consented to stand’?
The man who has just hired a bulldozer to repair the road to town which has been impassable for three years – and in so doing has been threatened with legal proceedings by the Roadworks Agency who should have done the work; the woman whose main claim seems to be her extensive family connections, or the man with the clipboard?

Yes, local elections are coming up in February and the candidates are doing their best to raise the political temperature in the area from somewhere near sub zero to something approaching the blood heat of a crocodile in the dark hours before the dawn.

The seven candidates have one thing in common….no, two things: they all want to be mayor and they are all shocked to find that the populace demonstrates a certain cynicism as to their motives for so doing.

Of course, they all want the best for the local people…the cynicism of the populace lies in the determination of who, exactly, counts as ‘local people’…
Is it local people in general, or is it certain people who live locally?

In order to bring things into the open the stringers for the national press organised a meeting, live online, where the candidates could answer questions and express their views.
Needless to say we saw a great deal of the said stringers congratulating themselves on organising the event…and a lot of camera time dwelling on the backdrop with the names of the local businesses sponsoring it…but we did also see the candidates.
All seven of them.

Eventually, things began with a rendition of the national anthem sung with enthusiasm.

As it was being distributed live online only the seriously narcissistic were present to watch the event, which, given past form at council meetings might have been an advantage. (The action on the video starts at four and a half minutes and involves the intervention of the police a minute later…)

Matters proceeded with a rendition of a ghastly ditty celebrating the area and they were off!

The candidates introduced themselves, talked about their families and then answered questions which were of two types: the first being written questions submitted to the stringers and the second being questions about the area and the work of the council written by the stringers themselves.

While the answers to the first batch of questions were the usual mix of wishful thinking and back handed swipes at the outgoing regime I was delighted to find that most of the candidates answered most of the ‘general knowledge’ questions correctly…apart from the one about the number of employees the current regime owns up to which produced a fair amount of wild guesswork as while some are visible and occasionally active others seem to live in a shadow world where only their paycheck is real.

So, whoever we get, the new mayor will have some idea of what he or she will be dealing with.

The same could not be said for Myriam El Khomri, France’s new Ministre du Travail (minister for employment) who made a real ass of herself in a recent television interview.

The lack of stable employment is a serious problem in France
If you are lucky – or started work in the Dark Ages – you will have a permanent contract, a CDI.
If you started work after Personnel Departments started calling themselves Human Resources then you are more likely to have a temporary contract, a CDD.
While the latter are supposed to be only for short term specific jobs, in reality they are about all you can get these days, because they allow employers to get rid of staff without the costly rigmarole of warnings, assessments and compensation afforded the holder of a CDI, and can be renewed without having to be converted into a permanent post as long as there is a break in or change of terms of employment.

There is, of course, abuse of the system.
La Poste holds, I believe, the palm, having employed someone for twenty five years on temporary contracts by moving the unfortunate worker from one office to another….but they are not alone – notably the Pole Emploi (Labour Exchange) in the public sector, the banks in the private, so for the person on a temporary contract the matter of the renewal of contracts is most important.

Not, it seems, for the Employment Minister.

Asked how many times a temporary contract could be renewed before having to be transformed into a permanent contract she dithered and dithered..and finally admitted that she did not know.

Not that it mattered, of course. The next day she said that she had been deliberately trapped…as had other politicians before her..it’s happened before and it will happen again, said she insouciantly.

This from someone who has never held down a proper job in her life.
From university onward she has lived from the public purse…from cronyism… flitting from one political job to another until the need to appease those of immigrant stock who still vote for the Socialist Party arose – and there she was: a woman of Moroccan origins. Ideal!
Does it matter that she has no experience in the field? No.
Does it matter that she appears incapable of acquiring any? No.

Because modern ministers are for the most part figureheads…the policy is decided elsewhere, by the global businesses who now control politicians, and all that is required is to toe the line and accept the handout on retirement from office.

We, the people, do not matter – except as a Human Resource.
And we, the people, have no power except at the changing of the guard called elections when one uniform replaces another to continue with the same policies.

The last Presidential elections in Costa Rica produced a nasty surprise for entrenched power: an outsider came to power borne on people’s resentment of corruption and cronyism.
He says he will not stand again…it has been a constant struggle to start the process of change; setbacks and ambushes at every turn…but there have been changes and people have seen that they could make their voice count and that they can do it again if need be.

I note the way in which Jeremy Corbyn has been demonised in the press; how the New Labour elite are organising to overthrow him as leader of the party…
But many people voted him into that post, people who, like Costa Ricans, had given up on politics. They voted for change once they had the chance.
Voted, like the Costa Ricans, for honesty and competence over entrenched privilege.

Enter Gladstone, monument of rectitude.

In the wake of the disastrous campaign in the Crimea his government resolved to shake up the armed forces…to make them efficient, competent and open to talent. His War Minister, Cardwell, abolished the purchase of commissions bringing fresh blood into higher command….a process gently mocked by Gilbert and Sullivan in ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ in the Major General’s song:

Gladstone shook up the Civil service too…entry only by competitive examination.Goodness only knows what he would make of the tribe of ‘consultants’ leeching the public purse these days….

We need another Gladstone…but unless we combat the influence of global business’ lapdog, the media, we won’t get one.
We need to talk to each other, encourage each other, help each other to bring people back to voting again…to back candidates with whom we do not agree on all points but who are honest and willing to stand up for all the people, not just the privileged.

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Filed under corruption, Costa Rica, elections, local government, misuse of power, politics

Open the Cage and Let Them Out

open the gates
Politics is in the air at the moment.

If it’s not Donald Trump in the U.S.A. then it’s Jeremy Corbyn in the U.K. …and here, in my little town, the candidates are squaring up for the local elections in February next year.

So far, only one party has announced whom its candidate for mayoral office will be: the party currently holding power.

The party whose representatives are responsible for the ever immobile bulldozer, the dustcart that collects more dust than rubbish and – latest item, remember you heard it here first – the payment of over two million colones (some four thousand dollars) to an enterprise appropriately entitled ‘El Gusano’ (The Grub) for cutting down a tree.

Be that as it may, the party faithful, all sixty three of them, assembled this weekend to elect their candidate for February.

The list had been whittled down to three….the current alcalde (mayor) – pink shirt; a gentleman who had given long service to the party both in the council and the National Assembly – blue shirt and a hair style expertly imitating a wig – and a large gentleman distinguished mainly by his striped polo shirt, resembling a navigation buoy swept inland by a tsunami.

Now, the party nationally runs the rule over those of its members who wish to stand for office.

It doesn’t like to endorse those who have previously stood for office for other parties….or those who have less then two years’ membership of the party.
No problem for the local candidates there.

It will not endorse those who contravene the requirements of its ethics committee.
No problem there either.

It will not endorse those condemned by the justice system…
Ah! A hitch!
One candidate was refused the party’s approval on these grounds.
The one with long years of service at local and national level.

It appears that this gentleman had been an agent for the then monopolistic state insurance company INS. Apart from his other activities.
As an agent for INS he had accepted payment for car insurance and had duly delivered certificates of insurance to his clients.
Unfortunately, he had forgotten to inform INS of his transactions.

It all came to light when a client, passing the head office of INS in San Jose decided to check his policy…only to discover that INS had no record of it.

The state prosecution service became involved and eventually the forgetful gentleman was hauled into court.

The Costa Rican justice system allows for a conciliation process before action proceeds, and at that process, the future candidate offered to refund the nineteen million colones (some thirty eight thousand dollars) identified as entering into his possession but not into that of INS and was given three years in which to do so, in addition to a payment to benefit the National Children’s Hospital and the obligation to do one hundred hours of community service.

Simple, you would think. Condemned by the justice system…can’t be a candidate.

But this is to underestimate the abilities of this gentleman.

Instead of appealing against the decision of his party immediately he waited until the day before the election and took his case to the national Election Tribunal who decided that, as a long serving party member and not otherwise disqualified by internal party regulations, he could proceed with his candidature while he appealed his party’s decision in an internal tribunal.
No time for the party to disqualify him again, then.

First round of voting….the navigation buoy is eliminated. Pink shirt and blue shirt tie.

Second round of voting….blue shirt wins.

Deep unhappiness among those whose candidate was not successful…..who have launched an appeal to overthrow the decision.

With a bit of luck this series of appeals will last until after the elections…or they might do a re run and elect the navigation buoy.

Needless to say, the social media are fizzing…..very good for my Spanish vocabulary, if somewhat repetitive.

I have no idea what the reaction in the U.S.A. to Trump might be…I just wonder if he reminds anyone else of a troll (Norwegian variety, not internet)….but Corbyn’s candidacy for the leadership of the Labour Party certainly seems to have enlivened political life in the U.K.

It appears from the reaction of an unholy combination of press and politicians that his election will end civilisation as we know it.
Looking at said civilisation as exemplified by the U.K., I tend to think that that is no bad thing.

There have been years of privatisation – both openly and by stealth – of public assets. Sheer daylight robbery.

Years of kow towing to the U.S.A. government- the follies of whose evil policies are plain to all.

Years of grinding the faces of the poor….no proper employment resulting in artificially induced dependency; education designed to depress, not encourage talent; inadequate housing, poor nutrition.

But what seems to worry the powers that be the most is that Corbyn would like to hear what ordinary people think, what ordinary people want….and proposes to try to put those wishes into effect.

Shock horror!

Democracy!

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Filed under Costa Rica, elections, politics