Ordure!Ordure!

This year, the Ashes are being played for in England. For lesser breeds without the law for whom that sentence means nothing, the cricket teams of England and Australia are playing a five match series – each match, in theory, lasting five days – to decide ownership of a tiny urn commemorating the defeat of England by Australia in 1882.

It is, generally speaking, a grudge match. Particularly so now since three Australian players are returning after a year’s suspension for ball tampering. See? Cricket is not so dull after all!

Ball tampering? Doing something unnatural to a cricket ball to assist the bowler in having an unfair advantage over the batsman. Polishing one side of the ball while leaving the other side rough produces a ball which is inclined to swing unexpectedly, thus wrongfooting the batsman. Polishing the ball on the trousers is an accepted method….other methods have been used which are more dubious…sucking sweets and slathering the resultant saliva on the ball – yuck …putting vaseline on your forehead and wiping it on the ball – slightly less yuck…having a pocket full of dirt and rubbing that into the rough side of the ball – not recommended by your tailor….

But these three went one further…the captain – and, no doubt the bowlers who escaped sanction as their country needed them – knew that ball tampering was going on. The opening batsman – and biggest mouth on the team – induced the latest team member, who wanted to keep his place, to have a sheet of sandpaper in his pocket, with which to rough up the already rough side of the ball. They were playing South Africa, whose team had already had their suspicions and who asked that the cameras were directed onto the sandpaper wielder…who was caught in the act

Thus the year’s suspension, which expired – what a surprise – to allow them to play in the Ashes.

Their reception has not been warm. Booed out to bat and booed back in again when bowled out…while when fielding the main culprit was serenaded by the crowd to the tune of ‘The whole world in His hands’ the words being ‘he has sandpaper in his hands’.

In normal circumstances a Test match has a certain effect in this household. Given that I will be glued to the radio for the duration and that we are seven hours behind the U.K. Higher Authority, dogs, poultry and sheep are resigned to being fed early – during the lunch interval in England – and thereafter being ignored until lunch here which is close of play in England. Meals from the freezer figure largely and barking is discouraged.

However, this year the fourth Test Match has a rival even more enthralling than sandpapergate. …

Brexit.

Where the main players could appropriately be greeted by the chant that greets the Aussies

Same old – fill in the name of your choice – always cheating’.

Such is the nature of the British constitution that it is possible to have a change of Prime Minister without a General Election. The ruling party sorts it out itself and lumbers the populace with the result, so as long as the new incumbent can maintain a majority in the House of Commons his, her or its bottom is safely on the seat of power until the rest of the five year term of Parliament expires.

So the current booby should be sitting pretty…no?

No.

He came in on a rush of blood to the head, announcing that he would settle Brexit once and for all. He wanted a deal with the European Union, but if not then the U.K. would go it alone.

Panic in the dovecotes! Someone sounding as if they meant what they said…unusual in subfusc Britain where so much is supposed to be conveyed in hints and nuances, lest the voters might discover what their leaders are up to.

Nuclear meltdown in the dovecotes! He wants to prorogue Parliament – suspend its sittings – to prevent M.P.s from fouling up his negotiations with the E.U. by offering the latter aid and comfort.

The four horsemen ride forth! He has withdrawn the whip from twenty one Tory M.P.s who have not supported the government in a vote in the House of Commons. Being Tory M.P.s one would imagine that lack of contact with the whip would particularly affect them – but these are heroes! They can forego the kiss of the whip!

These men and women have, over the years, brought forward, voted for and promulgated measures which have brought poverty and insecurity to the lives of many ordinary people…but today they are heroes! They are saving democracy!

But by withdrawing the whip the booby lost his majority in the Commons. His bottom is no longer secure on the seat of power. And all this since taking office on July 24th….he moves fast for one of his build.

And now comes the retribution from those saving British democracy….the Speaker of the House and opposition M.P.s – not forgetting the heroes, of course.

They are passing an Act which will mandate him to seek yet another extension of the process of leaving the E.U. – a process which already resembles trying to walk up the down escalator at Holborn tube station in the rush hour. And they have written the letter of application for him too…

The booby sought an escape in the frenzy of a General Election….but the guardians of democracy will not permit it until the deadline for leaving the E.U. – currently at October 31st – is passed, just in case he wins a majority and heaves the U.K. over the line.

The whole thing has been very bad tempered. The Speaker made a personal attack on a member of the government, the booby called the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition a big girl’s blouse, M.P.s in general have been shouting down those wishing to speak and if this is the mother of parliaments one could understand a wish among its children to declare themselves orphans.

What is the booby to do? Set down a vote of no confidence in his own government to trigger an election outwith the provisions of the Fixed-term Parliament Act of 2011 – an Act designed to keep uneasy bedfellows in a coalition government together?

Resign and let the various forces which have constrained him hitherto sort it out for themselves?

Goodness only knows….but in the meantime we should examine the case of the blockage in the No lobby.

When the House of Commons votes, its members pass through either the Aye or the No lobby to be counted…both by clerks of the House and by tellers appointed by the appropriate sides.

Now, when the House began to examine the bill to block the booby from going hell for leather for a no deal exit from the E.U. it turned itself into a Committee of the Whole House…the mace was taken from the clerks’ table and a deputy Speaker took the chair.

The various amendments were proposed and discussed…among them a proposal to re examine the withdrawal agreement made between the E.U. and the previous booby, which had been rejected by the House three times already as even those who wished to remain in the E.U. could not stomach its provisions.

A division was announced…the tellers from the two sides were recognised by the deputy Speaker and the M.P.s toddled off to vote. It was assumed that the amendment would be lost given its history.

There was an inordinate delay and finally the deputy Speaker asked someone to investigate the blockage in the No lobby. The white tie and black tailed official went away and returned to report that there were no tellers in the No lobby….the votes could not be counted.

Accordingly, the Withdrawal Agreement was passed as agreed….Lazarus risen from the dead.

The tellers were provided by the government of the booby…so why did they not act? Why allow Lazarus to arise from his winding sheet?

Significantly, no one in the other parties questioned the lapse….

The amendment was proposed by the Honorable Stephen Kinnock, well known opponent of the leader of his party, Jeremy Corbyn and firmly in favour of remaining in Europe.

The current booby was previously a supporter of the remain in Europe faction…he took leadership of the Leave campaign in the referendum of 2016 convinced that his group would lose…but that his support would gain him a following among the anti Europe constituency members…useful for a later power coup.

Given the current situation, Lazarus may appear to weary M.P.s – and to an exasperated electorate – to be a ready made solution.

So…ask yourselves…why did the booby allow his parliamentary managers to ‘lose’ two tellers on what seemed to be an insignificent vote?

Is he what he seems to be…someone determined to leave the E.U. on the best terms possible…or is he cheating, serving those who wish to remain?

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U.K. Repel Boarders Force To Expand Its Activities.

Well, thank you all for coming tonight…and thanks to Bob for letting us use the back room once again. I’ll just get a round in and we’ll make a start.

Bob? Two Teachers, one Bells, two pints, a dry sherry, a gin and campari and a double rum, if you’d be so good.

Now, as you know, at the AGM it was proposed and passed nem con that Alf should be co opted onto the committee, given his experience in the Cod Wars, to give some persepective on the maritime side of the problem so, Alf, thank you for agreeing to take on the responsibility.

Oh, thank you Bob! And cheese and crackers…that is spoiling us!

Glad to help out, Mr. Chairman – and a nice drop of Pussers that, Bob!

Well, just as well that Alf is with us as the BBC have just said that the Navy won’t be able to keep foreign fishing boats out of our waters after Brexit.

Typical! Look how they’ve run down the Navy….reduced to sharing an aircraft carrier with the French…and that won’t be available when you need it, just you see…their wardroom will have run out of olives and won’t be able to put to sea…

I know, Deidre, but an aircraft carrier wouldn’t be much use in this case…Bob! A double gin and campari, please.

The thing is, there is already abuse as it is….Dave here likes to fish off the beach and, well, you tell them Dave.

Yes, Mr. Chairman. I have to dig for ragworm for bait during the day, of course, keeping an eye out for the council shitehawks now they have those quad bikes that can drive along the beach….

Sheer waste of public money! What was wrong with having a bike to ride along the promenade to spot baitdiggers without a licence the way they used to do? Too idle to shin down the wall and run after them, that’s what!

Yes, Mrs. Bracegirdle, I agree – Bob? Another round, please – but carry on Dave, will you?

Yes, Mr. Chairman. Well, as I was saying, I have to dig for bait during the day, but the fishing is good when the tide comes in at night and I like to get away from the wife’s soaps and cookery programmes anyway. Well, very often you can be down there and when the moon is up these French fishing boats without lights come along as close to the shore as they can get, dredging up everything in their nets….they come by night to avoid the coastguard spotting them, I think, but the point is that if they are doing that now, just imagine what they’ll be doing after Brexit! Hordes of the buggers, that’s what there’ll be, dragging the seas dry!

Language!

Sorry, Mrs. Bracegirdle, it slipped out.

And I heard some French minister say that Brexit or no Brexit they’d be fishing our waters, come what may! And what are we to do if the Navy can’t defend us!

Well, you can’t really blame the Andrew, Deidre, it’s not their fault if politicians don’t give them the means to defend our interests….Bob, could you do another double gin and campari, please?

Sold down the river, that’s what we are…and have been ever since they conned us into joining what was then the Common Market!

And don’t forget the Americans! We were winning the Cod Wars when we had to pull out because the Icelanders threatened to leave NATO and shut down the American bases there…

Too much foreign influence! That’s the problem!

Well yes, but we shouldn’t get into politics. We are just trying to help in a situation where official bodies, like the coastguard, are too hard pressed to do a proper job, and it looks as if the Navy will be needing a hand too…

Any ideas, Alf?

Well, round here, the problem is that we don’t really have home based trawlers of a size to do much for themselves….you need to ram the buggers – sorry Mrs. Bracegirdle – and cut their nets and you need to be of a size to do that. Bob, could you do another round please?…need to wet my whistle. So we have to think outside the box.

Where it comes to those trawlers Dave was talking about I have had one idea…and we don’t have to wait until Brexit, either!

Now, you need to confuse them about the depth of water…their sonar won’t be too good close in, with the sands shifting the way they do, so this might work. You’ll need an attractive young lady, though.

What…to lure them inshore?

Sort of. If she stands up, so that only her top is above the waves, always in the same spot, and they get used to seeing her – being Frogs they won’t miss clocking her – and then one night she sits down…still showing her top, they’ll think they have plenty of water but they won’t. They’ll run aground and then we can go for them and give them what for!

She’ll be pretty cold, though, won’t she?

She can wear a wet suit on the bits they can’t see…and she could take a thermos…

The other thing is to ask our local fishermen to harass them…surround them like, so that they can’t shoot their nets. It would be a bit chancy as your Frog is a violent bugger – sorry Mrs. Bracegirdle – but with enough of us we could board them and take over the boat.

But that would be piracy, Alf! Like those Somalis!

Well yes….but I had a think about that.

You know when Sir Francis Drake went after the Spanish, there wasn’t really a navy at all, so what he was doing could have been called piracy…but for one thing. Good Queen Bess gave him a Letter of Marque which authorised him to attack enemy ships and confiscate them and their contents – in return for a cut of the booty for the Queen when he returned.

So what we need is a Letter of Marque….and I reckon we might be able to get one!

How’s that, Alf? Bob, another round, please!

Well, the High Court of Admiralty used to issue them…but, of course, the bug….well, it’s sort of disappeared for years…but they’ve overlooked one thing. There’s still an Admiralty Court of the Cinque Ports, and it has jurisdiction over this area! Now, if we could persuade the judge to revive the Letters of Marque we could protect our boats if they attack the French!

I used to know who it was, introduced to him in the golf club…decent bloke….someone stole his oar years ago and he was very upset.

I’d always thought he was happily married!

No, Deidre, it was the silver oar that was stolen…the oar that has to be in the court when it is in session.

Surely there’s some law against it, though?

Only some treaty with a load of Europeans…and after Brexit we won’t be bothering about any of them, will we!

Well, is it the sense of the meeting that Alf looks into it all and reports to the next meeting?

Carried, nem con. Thank you Alf! Now, Bob, a last round for the road, please…and could you order a taxi for Deidre?

Is it 1789 all over again?

When in 1789 Louis XVI, King of France, was obliged to revive the old consultative body of France, the Etats Generaux, which had been in abeyance since 1614, the representatives of the three orders which were held to compose society – clergy, nobility, bourgeoisie – arrived at Versailles with their ‘cahiers de doleances´, which contained the views of those who elected them on how the country should be governed.

The current ‘monarch’ of France, the Eclipse of the Sun King Emmanuel Macron, alarmed by the possibility of his party losing heavily in the forthcoming elections to the parliament of the European Union, has in his turn decided to consult the nation, but, warned by the example of Louis XVI, has decided to do it his way…by having maires and ‘appropriate bodies’ hold meetings in which the populace can express their views and their wishes. They can even write them in books kept open in public buildings for that purpose.

What they can’t do is pop up to Paris to tell him in person.

He doesn’t like that.

Last week the people who are trying to tell him something broke into the building housing his official spokesman – the person trying to tell them something they are fed up with hearing.

He legged it before they could deliver their message.

Macron does not fancy being defenestrated from the windows of the Elysee Palace….and, unlike poor Louis, he doesn’t have the Swiss Guard to protect him. The poor bugger doesn’t even have his security guard extraordinaire behind him any more.

Monsieur Benalla would have come in useful now, with his experience of beating up protesters while dressed as a policeman but, alas, these days he is confined to confidential missions to African dictators bearing not one but two diplomatic passports…passports he said that he left in his desk when he resigned his post at the Elysee.

So Macron has to rely on the real police….where, once again, he has made a faux pas. To encourage the men on the ground to maintain the energy with which they employ tear gas, batons and something called flash ball which is capable of inflciting severe injury he has given them a pay rise.

Unfortunately he forgot the maxim of the French public service…if the man at the bottom of the heap gets a rise, his superiors get one too, to preserve the necessary distance between them.

So the Police Commissaires, Divisionnaires and other panjamdrums did not get a rise and they are not happy bunnies.

Already they have to try to maintain the morale of their forces in the suburbs of the major cities which are effectively no go areas for them. Where a gang can surround a police car and hold the doors firmly shut as they try to burn alive the three occupants, shouting ‘we want roast chicken’ the while.

There might be a knee jerk reaction from central and local government, but the no go areas remain no go for all that and the police are hung out to dry by local and national politicians if they attempt to maintain order.

But Macron’s government does not have to worry about the yobs from the suburbs or the people upon whom they prey…its members live elsewhere, well protected.

It is worrying instead about the rise of a popular movement, the ‘gilets jaunes’, named after the high vis yellow jacket one is obliged to carry in the car in France which those in the movement have adopted.

It is composed of people who work, pay their taxes and find that there is not sufficient money to go round to provide them with a decent standard of living.

Starting out as a protest against the rise in fuel tax it has become a movement demanding that Macron resign and his policies which favour the rich be overturned. Every weekend there are protest marches in Paris and the big cities….out in the sticks they blockade motorway toll booths and roundabouts.

Inevitably violent incidents have occurred…cars have been set alight, shops looted… in the wake of the marches but the police do not seem to be unduly worried by this. They are intent on ensuring that the marchers do not reach the Elysee and these wreckers make it easy for the government to accuse the demonstrators of violence.

Macron is gambling all on being able to beat the protesters into submission. The media report government spokesmen labelling them as fascists, communists, delinquents….people who wish to overthrow the state…

The police attack with – so far- impunity.

But the Commissaires, Divisionaires and associated panjandrums must be aware of something which seems to have eluded Macron.

People, generally, deplore the lawlessness which has overtaken their society.

They contrast the lack of effort to master the problem with the resources employed to silence decent people with genuine grievances.

They begin to view the police as being more focused on collecting motoring fines than on the protection of law abiding citizens.

Accordingly, they withdraw their consent from the government…just as have those who have had to suffer the lawlessness of the suburbs.

They no longer see the police as the guarantors of order…but as a government militia.

And once you see the government not as the embodiment of the people but as its overlord then revolt becomes acceptable whereas before an attack on the institutions of the republic would have been unthinkable.

Henry of Navarre’s great finance minister, Sully, noted that the great rebellions were not motivated by the wish to overthrow the government but by the impression that one had suffered long enough and it is evident that a tranche of the French population feels just that while a further tranche sympathises with them.

Already Macron’s proposed national debate is in chaos. The head of the body charged with organising it has withdrawn from the task after criticism of her 14,700 euro per month pay cheque. Not that she is resigning, of course….just refraining from workng on the project.

If you wanted a better example of one rule for the elite and another for the rest you could not have wished for better.

No one seems to know what will be done with the results….Macron gives no promises, but one suspects they will simply be trawled for spin material, while enabling the government to condemn the protesters for continuing to protest while the process is underway.

In the meantime a Monsieur Dettinger, a former professional boxer, has been arrested for laying into riot police in Paris. He gave himself up, admitted that he should not have done it, but said that after eight weekends of demonstrating where he and his wife had been teargassed each time he had just had enough of police brutality.

A fund was set up to assist with his legal fees which drove the Justice Minister to demand that the company running the crowdfunding site give up the names of all those who contributed, on the grounds that they were accomplices in his alleged crime.

How you can be an accomplice after the alleged crime has been committed is beyond me, but don’t let mere legal principles rein in a Justice Minister.

But will we have 1789 all over again? The storming of the Bastille? The heads on pikes?

I doubt it. The Paris of that period housed people of all conditions…the Paris of today has driven any but the comfortably off to the surrounding dormitory towns and you have to be made of stern stuff to take the RER into Paris in order to demonstrate.

The gang bosses of the lawless suburbs, though capable of extreme violence, are taking no part in this. Their livelihood comes from benefits, drug dealing and theft….undisturbed by a handcuffed police force. They have no interest in disturbing the status quo.

Macron’s head is safe…though we should always remember Sellar and Yeatman’s observation that uneasy lies the head which wears a throne….as far as Paris is concerned.

Ironic that the man who proclaims that the French expect something for nothing should be saved from the shipwreck of his project by the very forces which reflect just that philosophy.

But in the provinces it may be a different story….

Everybody Out! National Strike in Costa Rica.

Huelga-de-trabajadores-del-sector-público.-Cortesía

The fiscal deficit in Costa Rica has finally emerged from the closet after years of immurement. The previous government tried to take measures to resolve the problem but, having no majority in the National Assembly, could not get its legislation passed.

The new government…a sort of shabby rethink of the Ministry of All the Talents…has half a chance, as even the blowhard opponents of reform in the previous National Assembly feel the hot breath of the financiers on their backs and worry about a reduction in their personal wealth.

Accordingly measures have been proposed to impose tax on the proceeds of property rental – collapse of stout rentiers – the replacement of sales tax by Value Added Tax on both goods and services – collapse of stout lawyers and dentists – and a measure which was probably proposed by those holding crucifixes and garlic as a prophylactic – the removal of some of the privileges enjoyed by public service workers above and beyond those enjoyed by those in the private sector.

No one has suggested looking closely at the tax efficient co operative status of big firms which are co operative only in name, like Dos Pinos whose dairy products sell in Costa Rica for double the price that they command in, for example, Panama…

No one has suggested having a blitz on big firms who pay little or no tax until Hacienda – the Tax Man – gently suggests that they might like an amnesty by which they pay about twenty per cent of what is owed…..

No one has suggested having a look at the agricultural subsidies which keep the big rice producers in the pink – including the ex President who expanded the public sector enormously in order to  bolster his party’s power base – while abstracting water from the surrounding population…

Which is why most of the members of the National Assembly are in favour of the reforms as they do not touch their precious pocket books.

The public service unions, however, are distinctly unchuffed by the proposals.

They are quite attached to their bonuses for turning up to work on time, for maintaining confidentiality, for not taking a second job in their spare time, for having the government pay for professional education for which they receive a further bonus once the course is completed, receiving aid to educate their children, having their car, their mobile .phone and their food in working hours paid for from public funds and any number of other odds and ends, depending on which public body employs them.

People in general are demanding an end to institutionalised profiteering from the public purse….in particular calling for a halt to the ‘luxury pensions’ by which university professors, judges, top staff of the state banks and other institutions receive enormous monthly  sums on their retirement, regardless of whether or not they have made full payments to the appropriate pension schemes.

Oddly enough, while the government has proposed some modifications in this respect neither members of the National Assembly nor the union bosses are very interested as both groups look forward to receiving such pensions….one union boss retiring and taking his monster pension the day before calling his members out on strike.

For those accustomed to the British way of striking….Grunwick, Wapping, Orgreave,

orgreave

a national strike in Costa Rica is like a walk in the park…which generally it is, as in the capital, San Jose, the marches start at the Parque Merced

huelga parque merced

then proceed along Avenida Secunda – the main traffic artery of the capital – past the central park, then uphill to the national park by the National Assembly which they picket assiduously while the fat cats within vote through the legislation.

huelga

It has all been relatively peaceful…on hearing of the strike, trained as we were in France, we shot out to fill up the car, buy gas tanks and stock up on animal feed….but within days the blockades on the refineries had stopped and supplies were getting through…

The unions have blocked roads…but not for long….the President was jostled as he left the Teatro Nacional…Costa Rican Presidents don’t have  much by way of bodyguards…but the legislation has rolled inexorably through the National Assembly and will shortly be presented to the Constitutional Court.

Here, however, it might meet an obstacle more effective than the unions….

Judges and many of the staff of the Justice Ministry have the union perks…and the luxury pensions. They are not at all eager to see these go up in smoke.

Already some self righteous spokesperson has warned that if the judges are deprived of their perks they may feel obliged to accept bribes…

As a friend said…what, then is obliging them to do so at the moment and what would be the difference?

Feeling that this approach is not receiving good publicity the judges have now announced that, given the separation of powers under the constitution, the justice ministry is self governing and so can decide for itself on the terms of employment of its members…..

While I am not aware that ‘Through the Looking Glass’ is required reading for employees of the justice ministry that pronouncement could have come straight from the lips of Humpty Dumpty.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

And just in case, the presiding judge of the constitutional court has declared that as the proposed legislation involves changes to labour contracts, he is not at all sure that his court is legally able to hear arguments ….

Strikes here are completely different beasts to those in the U.K.

Until a strike is declared illegal by the courts strikers continue to be paid. When their strike is declared illegal they have three days in which to appeal, or to return to work. The norm is for them to return to work, under the cover of an agreement with their employers that they will not suffer any financial liability for going out on strike illegally. In the U.K. the union pays its members….

The police, while being unable to strike, have a great deal of sympathy with the strikers…having similar perks to defend…unlike the police in England who were paid double time to break the strikers….so violence is rare.

But there are similarities with the U.K. too…the fat cats look after their own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feet of Cement

cementazo

An earthquake of 6.5 shook the country recently.

We had had an early night as we had a crack of dawn start for a hosital appointment the next day but had hardly settled down before the dogs started yodelling. We thought they must have heard the coyotes who have been roaming the mountain behind us for a couple of weeks now but then they fell quiet as the house began to sway back and forth. It was like lying on a jelly.

It lasted a few minutes only and we had no damage. Friends have told us that the danger comes when the action is percussive and we did experience one of those in the original house down below…it was like a hammer drill doing its worst, but luckily, as the epicentre was only ten kilometres away, it was deep, at seventy five kilometres down, unlike the latest one whose epicentre was off the Pacific coast, and only ten kilometres down.

Still, it took the country’s mind off its problems for a moment.

Problems, you ask? In the land of Pura Vida where the people are amongst the happiest on earth according to some survey which is no doubt selling something?

I don’t know where they find these people as most of my friends are usually moaning….perhaps they  interview politicians.

Others interviewing politicians at the moment are the police. It is fairly normal for previous presidents to be investigated by the police, but only after a discreet passage of time when the proceeds have been salted away, so what has occurred to upset the applecart?

Cement…that is what.

No, not cement as in disposing of bodies while road building – the time it takes this country to get a road built the body would have disintegrated enough not to need burial anywhere – but cement as imported from China.

A happy duopoly controls cement sales in Costa Rica. It has no doubt paid well for its position over the years so was far from pleased when it looked as if the President was encouraging the import of cement from China with the aim of lowering prices.

Intolerable! Have his guts for garters!

So the duopoly set the hounds of the press on the job…or at least those parts of the press where it had influence….and finally they dredged up  one of the bosses of the Customs department who said that he had an e mail from the Deputy Finance Minister telling him that the ‘Big Chief’ – supposedly the President – wanted any shipments of Chinese cement to get through Customs without the usual old Spanish practices so that it would still be fit to use when released.

Shock horror!

Then the hounds went further. They discovered that one of the state banks had made a huge loan to the importer – with the cement as security –  the major part of which loan had ended up in his private coffers, while no cement ever arrived in Costa Rica.

And this is where things started to  go wrong.

Aiming at the President, the duopoly accidentally put one of their own in the frame.

The Chief Prosecutor.

This man, a stalwart of the old regime in Costa Rica, was an expert in delaying and burying unwanted dossiers and had been found with his fingers in the bank’s affairs, dividing the investigation into a myriad of mini investigations which would run into the sand, leaving those responsible at the bank to live a quiet life in the offices which had been refurbished recently at vast expense from the bank’s money…..i.e. public funds.

He was suspended and a young lady was appointed as interim Chief Prosecutor.

She seems to hold the view that prosecutors should prosecute and to that end has put the would be importer and the bank officials into preventive detention while she investigates.

Further, she has unearthed links between a magistrate, the Deputy Finance Minister and several politicians which she believes may give rise to prosecutions for the traffic of influence and has, with the consent of the courts, proceeded to seize their offices, computers and cars in search of evidence.

Mark you, this being Costa Rica, where the sublime usually descends to the gor blimey, the cars of the police seizing the gear of the Deputy Finance Minister were nicked for parking offences by the Municipal Police in San Jose.

She has also had a look at the mosaic of dossiers prepared by the Chief Prosecutor over the years in other sensitive matters, the upshot of which is that said Chief Prosecutor has decided to retire and a recent President is being summoned to explain how a mining company managed to get a permit to mine in a conservation area.

The country is reeling.

Action on corruption! Whatever next!

It does not come at a good moment for the politicians. Any of them. Because the Presidential elections are coming up in February and corruption is a major beef for the electorate.

Normally the level of enthusiasm of Costa Ricans for elections equals the energy of a crocodile in the early hours of a chilly morning, but this case has roused people to resemble crocodiles at midday, ready to wolf down anything in their path.

And what is in their path?

Politicians.

I can bet that the man who put up this poster is not going to vote for the PLN.

PLN elections

He seems to have strong feelings on the subject.

Historically the PLN held a firm grip on the vote as they were the party of the President who abolished the army and set up the CAJA – the NHS of Costa Rica. People were grateful and remained so for years.

Further, under the same recent President who is now being summoned to explain the mining licence, the civil service was expanded beyond anything that was necessary in order to form a client vote of those who benefited from the excellent wages, perks and pensions  – and their extended families.

Occasionally the PUSC, sort of Christian Democrats, would get a look in to keep them sweet, but basically the PLN had it all their own way, including in  local government.

The last elections brought a change….the people elected an almost unknown candidate, a university professor, who stood on a platform of opportunity for all, not the few.

Thus the enmity of the cement duopoly who regard such views as heresy.

He has had a hard fight. No majority in the National Assembly, ministries stuffed with partisans of the outgoing party….but the ship is slowly turning round. People are discontented with the slow pace of change but with the cement case there is a chance that they will see that change is possible…if they will back those who work for it.

Locally, too, politics is in the news.

This town is built on ground that is unstable…underground water courses run all over the place, let alone fault lines,  so holes tend to appear in the roads without warning. Ideally the council would use a study done by the University of Costa Rica which showed how to channel  and drain the area, but, of course, that would cost money and the council never seems to have any of that for infrastructure problems despite having a dedicated budget for same.

So the holes tend to be there for a long time.

puris holes in road

 

Exasperated by the inaction of the council a group of businessmen got together, hired an engineer and the necessary equipment and did the job themselves in the course of one night when they could reckon to be undisturbed by council workers or police who tend not to venture out after dark.

The alcalde – mayor – outraged by this demonstration of citizen power announced that the work was shoddy and would collapse within a week. Furthermore it would all have to come up anyway as the council was about to start a programme of repairs!

Several weeks later the holes remain mended and the council has managed to repair one road…the one leading to the fiesta ground which has been done in time for the annual high jinks surrounding the celebration of the town’s patron saint’s day.

Clearly it is not for nothing that the alcalde is a member of the PUSC.

I have been a trifle unfair to the police here.

They have a new boss. He is a local lad who has worked in other areas for years before being drafted back to his home town.

He wishes to clean up the place, but is a realistic gentleman.

No point rounding up the drug dealers and the wild young men who make the roads dangerous by doing wheelies, etc on onlicensed motorbikes during the week, as the resident judge for criminal affairs has a great respect for the presumption of innocence and tends to release anyone  daft enough to be caught by the previous police chief.

No…save the effort for the weekends, when a duty judge comes down from San Jose and jugs the lot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holes in the road.

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

London has once again been the target of a murderous attack on its people: not the politicians…the people, as in Manchester so recently.

The attacks appear to be on a society, not the politicians who, with their noses up the arses of Bush and Obama, helped to destroy what stability there was in Irak, in Libya and in Syria while their paymaster, Saudi Arabia,  destroyed Yemen.

In the past, those in revolt attacked those directly responsible  The bombs, les machines infernales, sought to kill the politicians, without thought, no doubt, for the coachmen, footmen and other servants who might well suffer as well.

But they did not attack the populace at large.

Now, thanks to the destabilisation of secular regimes in the Middle East and North Africa, our government has given legitimacy to the barbarians whose resistance  backs up their claims to combat the  west`s commercial hegemony in those territories.

The same barbarians who think it good to kill people who do no harm…just as our government has done in their countries.

An election comes in the U.K. on June 8th.

Whatever your views, whatever your background, do not vote for parties who will perpetuate arms sales to corrupt regimes because a vote for these sales will perpetuate the killings of innocent people.

 

 

 

Close the door, they’re coming in the window…

Second round of the French Presidential elections coming up….and Macron is well in the lead over Le Pen according to the polls.

How could he not be? The press – whose present ownership was assisted to its position by Macron when a minister of Hollande – is behind him and the established political forces are calling for that hoary old standby – the ‘front republicain’  – to preserve France from the shame of a victory by the Front National.

Vote Macron to keep out Le Pen.

It is 2002 all over again when people walked into the voting booths with pegs on their noses to vote Chirac in order to crush the other Le Pen, this one’s father.

There was even a man who took his wish to avoid contamination to the lengths of going to vote in the full fig of a deep sea diver…boots, helmet, the lot.

And, the power of the ‘front republicain’ behind him, Chirac won 82% of the vote.

But will Macron win by a similar landslide?

Should he?

Before examining the current state of affairs, we should take a look at the rise of the Front National.

A tiny Poujadist movement, it would probably have died out early in its life if not given impulsion by that most sinister man, President Mitterand.

First  President from the PS (Socialist Party) in the Vth Republic he was determined to beat off the challenge from the traditional right wing parties and maintain the PS in power. To that end he promoted the Front National.

He instructed the television channels to give more air time to Jean-Marie Le Pen, so raising the profile of the FN which then profited from Mitterand’s imposition of proportional representation in 1985.  Thirty five deputies from the FN were elected in 1986, giving the party a presence in the National Assembly which it would have been unable to achieve under the previous system.

The Front National was on its way. Thanks to a Socialist President.

In 2002 the FN had again to thank the PS whose candidate, Jospin, was so arrogant – entitled, one might say – that he thought it useless to spend money campaigning in the first round…he was sure to be put through to the second.

I can see him now…self satisfied prat…. pictured walking to his campaign H.Q. called L’Atelier – the workshop. He wouldn’t have known what a real workshop was like if it had bitten him and bite him it did.

The workshop – the real life one – sat on its hands. recognising what the PS was becoming – a party for the entitled where the locals did the  work and the golden boys and girls were parachuted in to safe seats.

As Jacques Brel notes so well, the bourgeoisie can make all the right noises in its youth…but it remains the bourgeoisie.

And with the end of the trente glorieuses – the years of the post war settlement – well behind it, the workshop started to wonder about its future.

Was it safe in the hands of the PS?

Clearly not with Jospin….but it rallied to the call for the ‘front republicain’ to preserve the values of French society when faced with Le Pen senior.

Chirac was succeeded by Sarkozy, whose opponent from the PS was Segolene Royal: her campaign was run by her ‘partner’, the father of their four children, Francois Hollande, First Secretary (boss) of the PS.

He sabotaged her campaign from  first to last. Sarkozy won.

Next time round the PS candidate was…Francois Hollande.  Quelle surprise.

He won, by not being Sarkozy. By saying that he hated the rich. By promising to bring Merkel’s Germany to heel.

We all know where the last promise went…a capitulation on the lines of Petain in 1940.

Hating the rich? Another capitulation.

But at least he was not Sarkozy.

Under Hollande France has stagnated. Unemployment has risen. Ordinary people see no future for their children.

Support for the FN has burgeoned in these circumstances…promising as it does a return to old values….to stability…to the known, rather than the uncertainty of modern life …..and Hollande has been content to see it burgeon because, like Mitterand, he sees the FN dividing the right.

But Hollande sees further than Mitterand: he sees the FN dividing the left as well, to the benefit of the established….the bourgeois, the servants of the banks.

Not content with demolishing the campaign of Segolene Royal, he has demolished the campaign of the current PS candidate, Bernard Hamon, by giving his support to Emmanuel Macron….the man who sunk his own ambitions for a second term.

Hollande has, once again, betrayed his party. One wonders who has bought him…..and for how much.

I find it shameful that these politicians not only sell themselves…but sell themselves so cheaply.

So, we turn to Macron.

The next president of France.

He has a ready made party – En Marche.

Funded by? His well connected friends in finance and the media.

His programme? To gain power.

His backing in the National Assembly? To be determined…..his party’s candidates in the forthcoming national elections have not been announced. Possibly because enough rats have not deserted their sinking ships yet.

Except, of course, from the PS.

At his rally in Lyon all the well kent faces were there….Hollande’s ministers,  looking for another safe billet….those right wing politicians who opposed Sarkosy…

Shown the door by the people…they climb in through the window.

Le plus que ca change, le plus que c’est la meme chose…

Vote Macron and you vote for the incompetents whose rule has led France into the impasse.

Vote Le Pen and you vote for another corrupt party.

Mindful of the struggle to obtain the vote, were I able to vote in France I would vote blanc.

Support neither candidate.

I could not vote Le Pen…but neither would I wish to see Macron with a vote which would legitimate his presidency.