Archive | November, 2012


27 Nov

By the luck of my situation and a bit of hard work I have completed the 50,000 word novel, ‘Eating the Owl’ for NaNoWriMo. Check it out, and have a read. I am quite proud of it, though I would have to regard it as a first draft. I am learning that it is possible to write quickly. This helps to maintain consistency throughout the story and keeps you energised.

26 Nov

For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is ending this week.
What’s that?
It’s National Novel Writing Month, a bit like Mother’s Day or Maiden Aunt in Woking Week.
The idea is to write a novel of fifty thousand words in November.
Now I’m not sure of the quality, and I need to make a lot of changes, but I have managed to nearly hit the target and still have a few days to go. I must admit that I have started on this story before, but I promise you that all the writing is completely new.
It is a really good discipline for budding writers to commit to a regime which forces them to produce a reasonable number of words a day. My experience suggests that the work produced by this method is better than endless reworking and weeks of navel-gazing.
I am actually pleased with the results so far and think it is the basis of a good commercial novel or screenplay.
You can have a look at a PDF of the thing as it was two days ago, on my website, – have a look for the link to ‘Eating the Owl’ on the Home page.

Getting the taxes paid

19 Nov

Getting the taxes paid.

Getting the taxes paid

19 Nov

Some recent stories in the press and radio have brought to light the fact that many large firms operating in the UK pay little or no tax. This reminds me of the infamous quote from Leona Helmsley, ‘We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes’. Two of the worst offenders are Starbucks and Amazon. Starbuck have arranged their finances so that the profits appear in Switzerland, but are generated in the UK. They claim not to have made an operating profit in the UK for over ten years. This is, according to the company, legal tax avoidance. Legal, possibly; immoral, definitely. Amazon Europe have an arrangement whereby they are registered for tax in Luxemburg, an EU state.
We have a crisis in the EU because not enough money is coming into the coffers of the various governments to pay for the necessities of society in terms of healthcare, education and many other things. Some of the smaller states, such as Luxemburg are able to offer much lower rates of tax to companies than the larger countries. A small percentage of the earnings of a large multi-national company is a lot of money for a small country. Greece in particular has suffered, and continues to suffer, from people not paying taxes. These are rich people and companies, able to make arrangements whereby they do not pay tax at the proper rate.
I propose a solution to this problem. Now, I understand that it would require agreement throughout the EU to change corporate tax arrangements. That is, every country would have to agree the change. This is not to the benefit of Luxemburg and other small countries. Here is the answer. Firstly, if you trade in the EU you have to pay taxes in the EU. Switzerland is outside the EU, by the way. The EU is a big financial block and multi-national companies would not argue too much about this if it was agreed by a unanimous vote. Arrangements such as Starbucks have could be declared illegal, and an estimate of taxes to be paid provided. If they fail to pay they will be told to get out. Secondly, the taxes should be paid where the profits are generated, that is a fair principal. To get this agreed, the tax paid to the small countries should be ring-fenced, but additional taxes charged according to where the profit is generated, minus the tax paid to the registered company, and maybe a small sweetener for agreeing to this change.
If such arrangements were put rapidly in place, a degree of fairness could be introduced to the system, the companies would know what their responsibilities were, a level playing field would be introduced and money would go where it was needed. If the EU represents anything it should be free trade. As a block it is big enough to enforce these changes.

Listened to the results last night

7 Nov

If I was a proud citizen of the USA and I was told that most of the world preferred Obama to Romney I would probably give a snort of derision and vote for Romney. Travelling in the US you can find everything from the frozen wastes to the Everglades, from the Rocky Mountains to the Great Plains to the coast of California, (Cue Woody Guthrie, ‘This Land is Your Land’). It is no wonder that only a small percentage of Americans travel away from the US. They already have almost everything that they need. This is not timeless, and the world changes. China may soon overtake the US in terms of economic importance. As a country which used to have an Empire and disposed of it without trying to hang on against the will of the peoples, (mostly), we know what it is to have been great and the attitudes that engenders. If you looked at a map of the World before 1946 you would see that a quarter of the surface was controlled by those bits coloured red. These days the small territories directly controlled by Britain can be counted in acres rather than square miles. Apart from some retard Little-Englanders and other nationalist who believe in some romantic ideal which never existed, few people in the UK are under any illusion that we are in any way a world power. The USA will not suffer this fate within the space of half a generation, but decline will happen, (Cue Paul Simon, ‘American Tune’).

There has been a major change in voting patterns in the USA. The minorities came together to return Obama for another term. It was a brilliant example of organisation in getting the vote out. Blacks, Hispanics and other minorities voted very largely in favour of Obama. Previously, a combination of apathy and deliberate disenfranchisement stopped many blacks and Hispanics from voting. Four years ago they found out that with some liberals and working class urban whites they were, together, no longer in a minority but could win an election for a black man. This lesson was not forgotten yesterday.  The Republicans have yet to come to terms with this reality. They see things, literally, in terms of black and white. In truth, the whites are not an homogenous group. (Cue Springsteen, ‘Born in the USA’ with a couple of bars of Cheech Marin’s ‘Born in East LA’). Look in detail and you suddenly see groupings of ‘Irish’, ‘Jewish’, ‘German’, ‘Italian’, etc…… Actually, that makes me laugh. I heard a fourth or fifth generation Irish American declare that he was Irish. No you’re not, you are an American. I’m more Irish than that, and I only claim to be British/English.

More interesting, a large majority of college educated women voted for Obama. That says more than anything else where the problems for the Republicans lie. Unless they can change their appeal they will be doomed to electoral failure. The rabid rants of Rush Limbaugh and his ilk and the dreadfully skewed news coming out of Fox cannot disguise that reality. Right wingers in the USA get all their opinions from such sources and probably don’t socially interact with anyone with different views. There is an astonishing inability among conservatives to empathise with the plight of any other group. Until they can learn to empathise they are doomed to walk in the electoral wilderness. The USA has changed and so has the world. The impression the USA gives in its foreign policy does matter. Obama’s actions in getting sanctions against Iran for its nuclear development have been a success. As the half-American Winston Churchill once said, ‘Jaw, jaw is better than war, war’. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netnnyahu nailed his colours firmly to Romney’s mast. Boy, is that going to back-fire! Watch this space. (Cue Louis Armstrong, ‘What a Wonderful World’)