Why Syria was really bombed: three photos

MACRON: French railway strike

MAY: The farcical Brexit negotiations

TRUMP: Russia and the 2016 Election


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Book Review: Mohsin Hamid ~ How to get filthy rich in Rising Asia

When your first book is The Reluctant Fundamentalist the bar is set very high indeed for subsequent books. The temptation is to write the same book again. I have in mind Lee Child, Ian Rankin et al. who write scores of books which are basically an iteration of their first triumph. Anthony Trollope wrote dozens of book but managed to create new settings- politics, the Church, families at war and so on: he reimagined himself. It also helped that his style is timeless.

Hamid writes as if he isn’t a westerner. He has a fluency and sense of time that, I think, is Asian. His story has guile and a finely tuned nuanced approach which is irresistible. He maps out one man’s journey through life. His passion to succeed and how he embraces amoral behaviour as a price to pay in a corrupt, nepotistic, clan based society. In the immortal phrase: He goes with the flow. Hamid’s introduction to reality is his teacher. Not because he is a mentor but because he is utterly incompetent:

Your teacher did not want to be a teacher. He wanted to be a meter reader at the electric utility. Meter readers do not have to put up with children, work comparatively little and what is more important, have greater opportunity for corruption and are hence both better off and held in higher regard by society…So your teacher, who narrowly failed his secondary-school final examination but was able to have the results falsified, and with his false results, a bribe equivalent to sixty percent of one year’s prospective salary… secured only the post he currently occupies. He’s not exactly a man who lives to teach. (p23)

Hamid’s everyman does all that is required of him to get ‘filthy rich’ except he trusts one person who finally betrays him. Regretting nothing he settles into contented life without the accoutrements of wealth and finally meets his one true love.

Why you should buy this book: Hamid is masterly and this is brilliant.

Why you shouldn’t buy this book: Purists might question the bone fides of someone who went to Princeton and Harvard Law School writing about village boys made good.

Buy it for 82p + p&p at https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/offer-listing/0241144671/ref=sr_1_1_olp?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1524306515&sr=1-1&keywords=mohsin+hamid+How+to+get+filthy+rich+in+asia


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Does Teresa May or Amber Rudd’s apology
Mean they’re sorry for their actions, that were first initiated
Under Teresa May’s it began, under Amber Rudd’s authority activated
Or, does sorry really mean – were sorry you lot found out?

“Well, let me be clear” is clear
Obfuscation might clearly be thought necessary
To hide secrete reasons to pander to racist fascists
Bent on showing, promises to reduce immigration, to fewer than 100K.

Migrants who came to this country,
Many generations ago from the Caribbean
Thought migration to England would improve their future
They called this their “Home Country”.

Sorry Windrush people, decades later
You’re not to blame, call it collateral damage
OK, we did ‘mean to get rid of you’
But not now that our plan has been exposed”

Of course it’s not the Conservative Government fault
A weak Prime Minister, decided to hold a referendum
The result was built on lies, we all now know
So, let’s shift the blame onto the EU and Brussels.

Did that blame manifest itself, in the right wing press
Seeding discontent and hostility, toward foreigners
Foreigners, who happen to want a better future
And have the temerity, to bring their own culture with them?

Is this country so blinkered or prejudiced
That people from abroad are vilified by the Government
To the point where our Foreign Office
Shows heartless disregard for the pain deliberately caused.

Next, will they expel all that are different?
“Look he has got ginger hair – she has freckles
That child is clearly black , or of mixed race
Quick, check to see if any are left handed!

Should we let out ‘strong and stable’ Government
Simply trace everyone’s genetic background
Should they take all adults and test them before they breed
Oh, wait a minute, we all might be in that mix.


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David versus Goliath: the Campaign against Barclays Bank 1969-87

Barclays Bank being vilified

In the period 1959-69 there were boycotts of South African goods and sport. Boycotts included not buying South African fruit or playing international cricket. Universities boycotted academic jobs and conferences1. The Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) failed to galvanise the British public into a decisive economic boycott. Students in London did better. They attacked the core business of Barclays Bank. Barclays was South Africa’s principal bank. The student campaign vilified the bank as the paymaster of apartheid. London’s students aimed at turning Barclay’s into a pariah. The campaign was simplicity itself. Initially all students had to do was close their account. Student politicians expanded their campaign to corporate accounts, creating more significant economic damage. Eighteen years later in 1987 Barclays withdrew from South Africa. Apartheid ended three years later in 1990. The boycott of Barclays was a factor in that decision.

The students boycott of Barclays was effortless. Students promoted changing banks as a moral act. This destroyed Barclays’ competitive advantage, their powerful legacy position. Students usually banked with Barclays because their parents did. By linking South African apartheid with high street retail banking, students intuitively raised issues of corporate responsibility for the first time. The students’ campaign illustrated the fact that Barclays South Africa was at the end of a financial umbimical cord, which began on British high streets. In other words, British retail customers of Barclays were sustaining South Africa’s murderous apartheid policy.

Creating isolation by boycotting sport

The boycott by individual students was the beginning. Those Student Unions which banked with Barclays rapidly closed their accounts. This closure campaign quickly spread to a number of British universities. Students in 1969 lived in a heightened polical atmosphere following the student unrest of 1968 against the Vietnam War2. They had the skills and motivation to extend the campaign to university accounts. (It’s important to remember that there were widespread anti-South African academic boycotts in the 1960s. The students’ campaign was pushing on an open door in the senior common room.) Obviously the closure of university accounts added gravitas to the student campaign. The campaign became mainstream.

Barclays may well have calculated that as the 1969 cohort of students graduated, the campaign would peter out. The AAM prevented this with adroit sustained campaigning. The AAM was helped by the South African government who kept apartheid in the news with its brutality3.

South African brutality kept the boycott going

Many students moved on to opinion forming jobs after graduation, taking their political attitudes with them. They fully understood that the Barclays campaign was administrative. No marching, no banners, no reputational damage to their organisations. What could be easier to implement? By the 1980s Barclays had lost the majority of student accounts. The campaign was causing reputational damage with a consequential haemorrhaging of business accounts. Barclays took the business decision to sell their South African business in 1986. The boycott ended in 1987 once campaigners believed the evidence presented by Barclays about their disengagement from South Africa.

So what began with individual students, Student Union funds and university accounts spread to local authorities, charities and other organisations that were susceptible to moral pressure. The concept of corporate responsibility was born. Multi-national businesses now knew that corporate misbehaviour could be targeted wherever they did business. David had slaughtered Goliath, again.

1See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academic_boycott_of_South_Africa

2 www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-14277114

3 http://www.sahistory.org.za/topic/political-executions-south-africa-apartheid-government-1961-1989

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Empathy Explained

Never tell your troubles to anyone. 20% of people don’t care and the other 80% are glad you have them.

Richard M

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Book review: Anthony Trollope~ The way we live now (1875)

If you want a long (780 pages) novel that you can wallow in like a warm bath that doesn’t get cold and sweeps along with brilliant writing this is for you. Trollope wrote this in 100 chapters, which were published separately and then gathered together as a complete novel. Maintaining the interest of his readership month after month means there are regular highlights. Trollope’s novels have frequently been turned into TV series because their structure is perfect.

Trollope is wonderful on Victorian society and the absolute necessity of marriage for wealthy young men and women. Marriage was, in essence, a market. Wealthy young women knew that they were being ‘hunted’ by aristocrats who needed an injection of money to fund their impecunious lifestyles. The equation was simple: heiresses had money which aristocrats needed; the women needed a husband. The women bought the men and then allowed themselves to be robbed. Trollope has written a satire about all of this with Sir Felix Carbury being the principal exemplar of the wastrel and Marie Melmotte the female counter-part.

Additionally Trollope has written about the city of London in all of its corrupt amoral beauty. Marie’s father is a crooked ‘prince’ of the city. He’s feted by everyone as he appears to have unlimited wealth. He even becomes MP for Westminster as Trollope trains his fire on Victorian political life. A phony American railway company sheds light on the cupidity of the ‘city’ who care only about quick money. It all blows up but Marie is very much her father’s daughter and defies him to the point that she ends up rich and he ends up a suicide.

Why you should buy this book: It’s a wonderful story.

Why you shouldn’t buy this book: It has a viciously anti-Semitic character

Get it for free at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/5231

Or at Amazon if you want a hard copy for 99p

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Donald Trump’s Inspiration



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