iSIS

Over the past few weeks the terrorist group ISIS has been busy with an attack in Paris, Beirut and Mali. With death tolls in their hundreds and the world rallying its support for the victims, ISIS definitely has Great Britain’s attention.

pray for paris

But who are ISIS and what do they want?

isis-flag
The Flag of The So Called Islamic State

the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is an extremist militant group, self-proclaimed to be a caliphate (Islamic government) and Islamic state. It is led by and mainly composed of Sunni Arabs from Iraq and Syria. As of March 2015, it has control over territory occupied by 10 million people in Iraq and Syria, and through loyal local groups, has control over small areas of Libya, Nigeria and Afghanistan. The group also operates or has affiliates in other parts of the world, including North Africa and South Asia.

Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi
Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi

The group proclaimed itself to be a worldwide caliphate, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi being named its caliph (Leader)As a caliphate, it claims religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide, and that the legality of all emirates, groups, states, and organisations, becomes nullified by the expansion of the caliphate’s authority and arrival of its troops to their areas. The group originated as Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad in 1999, which pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2004. The group participated in the Iraqi insurgency that followed the March 2003 invasion of Iraq by Western forces. In January 2006, it joined other Sunni insurgent groups to form the Mujahideen Shura Council, which proclaimed the formation of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) in October 2006.

After the Syrian Civil War began in March 2011, the ISI, under the leadership of al-Baghdadi, sent delegates into Syria in August 2011. These fighters named themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and established a large presence in Sunni-majority areas of Syria

After an eight-month power struggle, al-Qaeda cut all ties with ISIS in February 2014, citing its failure to consult and “notorious intransigence”. In Syria, the group has conducted ground attacks on both government forces and rebel factions in the Syrian Civil War. The group gained prominence after it drove Iraqi government forces out of key cities in western Iraq in an offensive initiated in early 2014.

This map highlights the countries of Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Called out are the cities of Mosul and Kobani. The area of ISIS controlled or contested territory is highlighted in red.
This map highlights the countries of Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Called out are the cities of Mosul and Kobani. The area of ISIS controlled or contested territory is highlighted in red.

Muslim leaders around the world have condemned ISIL’s ideology and actions, arguing that the group has strayed overwhelmingly from the path of true Islam and that its actions do not reflect the religion’s true teachings or virtues. It is my feeling that those who would take something as beautiful and good as Islam and twist it and try to justify such horrors have strayed so far from the true path and teachings of the Prophet Mohamed that there is no hope for them. I’m not even a religious person (a catholic primary school beats that out of you) and it just astounds me that anyone could use teachings on how to live a loving and peaceful life, and a life full of charity, could ever find a way to use Islam to justify a single act of terror let alone this whole war. No true Muslim could do this.

The Qur'an The Holy Book Of Islam
The Qur’an The Holy Book Of Islam

And while the world is focused on these attacks in Paris and Mali and Beirut, I cant help but wonder what is coming next? Sun-Tzu teaches that shows of strength and force are often feints to distract from the subtleties associated with warfare, and in this modern age of technology could these brazen displays of terror be hiding darker acts of cyber terrorism?

Ted Koppel

In his book Lights Out  A Cyberattack, a Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath the anchor of Nightline Mr Ted Koppel has set out a bleak vision of an unprepared government in the event of a cyberattack on the 3 main power grids within the United States. His book looks at what plans are in place by the US Government and finds the results worrying, with interviews with cabinet members and those ready to take their own action in the event of an attack Mr Koppel has certainly opened my eyes the dangers that we face in the modern world. A coordinated cyberattack on the Bank of England or the NHS could destroy the British economy and plunge this country into anarchy.

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It just goes to show that in this modern age of laptop computers and personal tablets that the stylus is mightier than the sword and the knee jerk reaction may be to throw a tonne of money and half as many bombs into the middle east but I implore our government to be smart, the last thing that the middle east needs is yet another invading army, what is best for Britain is that we get our house in order (and I don’t mean silence during PMQ’s) strengthening Britain’s cyber defences is the safest thing for the British People, the biggest threat isn’t going to be a dozen blokes with bomb filled backpacks it’s going to be the spotty specky guy that was picked on in school and couldn’t get a girlfriend, but is oh so good with computers, and they’ll be working night and day on new ways to spread the “vision”that has taken a hold of them.

Guy Fawkes and Guy Fakes

Remember remember the Fifth of November, the gunpowder, treason and plot.Guy Fawkes

I take a lot of pride in the history of Britain, but one of the main things that baffles me is that year on year every 5th of November we celebrate the life of a terrorist…although burning his effigy isn’t exactly a glorious tribute.
In recent years Guy Fawkes has become a folk hero and his image is a used as a symbol for anti government feelings and a voice of civil discontent. Works such as Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta have romanticised Guy Fawkes as a freedom fighter trying to throw of the yoke of a totalitarian autocracy. In the Graphic Novel the eponymous V takes up the mantle of Guy Fawkes in order to overthrow a fascist dictatorship that has swamped Britain in an almost Orwellian dystopia. It is worth mentioning that one of the most prevalent images associated with Guy Fawkes now is the mask of V from V for Vendetta and is now even the symbol of online hacktivists and vigilante group Anonymous.
V for Vendetta
But here’s the rub Guy Fawkes wasn’t actually anti government, he wasn’t even anti monarchy, he was just anti King James the 1st. The reason that Guy Fawkes chose Westminster Palace was fairly simple, firstly it was accessible from the river, secondly the labyrinth of cellars provided a decent hiding place and thirdly it was a place he knew the king would be. The initial bombing was planned for the state opening of parliament an event in public during which the king would have to be in attendance and stay for the duration. Guy Fawkes actually had a great admiration for the work of government and the only reason he was caught was that he was stupid enough to warn a member of the House of Lords about what was going to happen. And the rest is history.

Guy-fawkes-1
So how has Guy Fawkes gone on to become the symbol of anti government feeling? Well blowing up parliament will do that. But in this day and age Guy Fawkes is seen as the last honest man to enter parliament (a claim which I find highly insulting). I think that sometimes though it’s nice to have a reminder of what people are capable of when they are unhappy with the status quo and whilst I don’t agree with his cause and certainly don’t agree with his methods I think that Guy Fawkes does symbolise that sometimes the actions of those in charge need to be questioned and that positions of power are only as stable as the people that put them there.

Anonymous

What Has Europe Ever Done For Me

eu flag

One thing that was a key campaign point during the general election was the question of The United Kingdom’s continued membership of the European Union. Now must people down my local haven’t got a clue what the EU is for and don’t have a clue what the EU does beyond straightening bananas. So here is a little bit of info that you can mull over before making a decision on referendum day.

  • The European Union is a socio-economic/ political union of 28 member states
  • The EU operates through a number of institutions and through intergovernmental decision making in order to form EU policy.
  • The institutions of the EU include the European commission, the European Parliament and the European Council, along with the Court of Justice of the European Union, The Council of the European Union and the European Central Bank
  • The EU operates a system of four freedoms, which mean the free movement of goods, services, money and European citizens between member states
  • EU policies seek to enact legislation in criminal justice and home affairs and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development
  • The EU has a combined GDP of £12.5 trillion and is the biggest economy in the world.

    European-Union-Member-States-Map
    Members of the European Union

Now that’s all lovely talking about GDP and movement of capital but what has the EU ever done for the bloke (or the bird) in the street.  Well:

  • Easy travel, no longer do I have to fanny about in customs or worry if I’ve got the right currency because 19 European countries all take euro’s. On top of that if I were to get sick with some foreign illness, I wouldn’t have to worry about a hefty hospital bill like I would if I were in the states.
  • Food labelling, thanks to being in the EU I now know exactly what is in my food, and then its up to me to make the decision about eating it.
  • Paid leave from work. Because of the EU working time directive every British worker is entitled to 4 weeks paid holiday and 11 hours rest in every 24 hours.
  • Equal pay between men and women all came from European legislation
  • A minimum wage, whilst Tony Blaire and his descendents will claim that they introduced the minimum wage, which is nominally true, it in fact stemmed from a European directive .

and on top of all that the EU also pumps millions of pounds into depressed areas in the UK , without which trying to get public funding for anything in the South Wales Valleys of the North of England would be next to impossible.

Guns Don’t Kill People Dickheads do

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Yesterday saw a tragedy take place in the United States. The 45th mass shooting of 2015, taking place at Umpqua Community College, which has now left nine dead (ten including the gunman himself) and a further seven injured.

I just want you to take a moment for that to sink in, the 45th mass shooting in under a year, in a so called civilised, first world country.  Now undoubtedly the gunman had some deep psychological problem, either treated or untreated, but the fact that this sort of person had access to a powerful firearm is astounding, this is why I’m glad things are different in the UK.

Chances are that in Britain, the only time anyone will ever encounter a gun is through the television, or at a major tourist attraction such as Buckingham Palace (where they are there for ceremonial purposes more than defensive). In Britain thanks to stringent firearms legislation fewer than 2.5% of all homicides were gun/firearm related in 2011 and by 2013 there were only 30 homicides caused by gun in England and Wales with fewer still in Scotland (5 in total). Statistics also show that since 2010 the number of gun related crimes in the United Kingdom has fallen year on year, thanks in no small part to our boys and girls on the thin blue line, the figures also show that in 2014 the number of gun deaths in the UK (homicide or accidental) is 21, which is less than 0.25% of the 8512 gun death victims in the US in the first 3 quarters of 2015.

US_Capitol_Building_at_night_Jan_2006

When it comes to America the use of guns is something of thorny issue with the pro gun lobby citing their constitutional right to bear arms and arguing that any new gun legislation is an erosion of their constitutional liberties (one of the many downsides to having a written constitution) and then of course the anti gun lobby citing every bit of butchery from Custer to Columbine as reason enough to tighten gun law, with a split congress and a beleaguered president caught in the middle.

hungerford massare

As an outsider it’s easy for me to say that they need to outlaw guns in the same way that Britain and Australia have, but I don’t know if it would work for America, as the US is a country with 50 different sets of laws at the state level and then federal law trying to keep a lid on that, but it’s this sort of thing that must make President Obama’s heart glow with the knowledge that an end is in sight for him, knowing that after January 20th this sort of thing is someone else’s problem.   But whoever President Obama’s replacement is they will certainly need to make headway into firearm reform its this sort of tragedy that should be the shot in the arm that America needs to wake up and see sense. In the UK after the Hungerford Massacre we got the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 making it illegal to own a semi automatic firearm, so what will America get after this its 45th gun spree of 2015.

American comedian Chris Rock said that American’s will never go for gun control, the best you could hope for is bullet control, put the price of bullets up so high that if someone winds up shot to death you know that they probably deserved it.

On that note I would like to pay my respects the victims’ families of this latest monstrosity.

*statistics courtesy of the Home Office and The White House*

Jolly Old Local Government

I was outraged to find today that a delegation of councillors from Torfaen County Borough Council have just yesterday,  at the rate payer’s expense jetted off to one of UNESCO’s world heritage site for a jolly old outing.

unesco-logo 10

Using hard won council funds a delegation of councillors led by council leader Bob Wellington traipsed areound this site of unique world heritage looking at the key examples of capital investment and beautification…all at the tax payer’s expense.

Bob Wellington Leader TCBC
Bob Wellington Leader TCBC

The delegation of councillors trip also included visis to a state of the art medical facility and a new educational establishment all at a cost £20.1 million. All of which is in an area that in less than 20 years has had over £50 million spent on it.

Using council funds for lavish private transport and to fund entertainment expenses all on their jolly outing, it’s this sort of excess that makes people despair of local government.

Still it’s nice to see Blaenavon is getting a look in.

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Drop The Bomb

bombIt’s been in the press recently that the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, is calling for the abolition of the Trident Nuclear Defence Program, possibly giving rise to the “threat to national security” line that the Tory Party have been spreading, if only as a threat to its budget.

Under the terms of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons there are five states recognised as nuclear weapon states, China, France, Russia, the US and the UK (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council).

Mr Corbyn has suggested that he would like to see Britain’s nuclear deterrent scrapped when next year Parliament will vote to renew trident, during said vote Labour Party MPs will most likely be given a free vote on the issue. The revelation that the candidate for Labour Leader that was backed by the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament is in fact anti nuclear weaponry.

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn

I can honestly say that I’ve never been anti nuclear, in terms of the energy market I’ve often thought that nuclear energy offers a cheaper alternative to fossil fuel all whilst providing opportunities for employment for hundreds (similar to the shale gas industry). But whilst being pro nuclear energy I’m also pretty anti war, but I do recognise the politically reality of the world in which we live, which unfortunately does call for armies and guns and bombs, and whilst I may not like it I do recognise the need for them. So whilst Mr Corbyn may wish for the end of the bomb I somehow don’t see it happening any time soon.

But I should point out that if the French have the bomb we definitely need the bomb.

Right To Assembly

So today I was going to do a massive post about the political conferences of the week but illness precludes me from doing so, also it would probably be better to do a post mortem of conference season after all the conferences are over.

However in order to keep my content fresh and new here is a piece about the upcoming Welsh Assembly elections. For those that didn’t know there are approximately seven months until the Welsh Assembly elections (as well as the elections to the Scottish Parliament, Various English local authorities and the London Mayoral elections all taking place) so here’s a quick guide to the election in Wales and a brief history of the Welsh Assembly:

The Welsh Assembly as seen from Cardiff Bay
  • Candidates will be fighting for 60 seats on the 5th May 2016
  • There are 40 constituency seats that will be fought on a first past the post system
  • There are also twenty seats that will be decided on a proportional representation system.
  • Each registered voter will receive two ballot papers one for their constituency and one for their region.
  • The average turnout for assembly elections is between 45%-50%
  • There has never been an outright majority government in the Welsh Assembly the closest is the Labour Party with 30 of the 60 seats forming a government.
  • The Welsh Labour Party has been the majority party at every Welsh Assembly Election and has formed all four Welsh Assembly Governments.
  • There have been two coalition partnerships in order to form Welsh Governments, the first being between The Welsh Labour Party and the Welsh Liberal Democrats from 1999-2003 and between the Welsh Labour Party and Plaid Cymru (The Party of Wales) from 2007 until the most recent election in 2011 which saw the formation of a Minority Government of the Welsh Labour Party.
  • The Welsh Conservatives are currently the only party represented in the Welsh Assembly that has never formed a government and is currently the official opposition the Welsh Labour Government by dint of being the second largest party in the Assembly.
  • Polls for the election will open at 7 AM on Thursday the 5th of May 2016 and Close at 10PM with results being counted and announced thereafter.

Hope that clears everything up for you all and now I know that like the rest of us politicos, you’ll be counting the days until the election…is over. Have a lovely weekend people.