Daily archives: July 25, 2012

Plus Ça Change

I am currently reading David Brown’s Palmerston; A Biography.

In 1846 Palmerston had threatened the government of Spain with military intervention if it defaulted on its bond interest payments. Palmerston faced a Chartist candidate, George Harney, at the general election in his Tiverton constituency. At the hustings debate, Harney said Palmerston’s threat to Spain was unjustifiable:

“These Spanish bondholders are English capitalists, who lent some millions of money to the government of Spain, not, as has been represented, because they were anxious to help the people of that country to obtain “Liberal institutions”, but because they were promised a higher rate of interest than they could get at home. That money had been derived from the labour of the English people.”

Harney argued that Palmerston’s foreign policy was simply to deploy the resources of the state to defend the interests of the rich.

The Tiverton crowd greeted this assertion with “immense cheering” and Harney had a clear majority at the show of hands at the hustings, which was attended by most of the adult population of Tiverton. He withdrew from the actual ballot, however, in protest at the extremely limited franchise – only about 600 people in the constituency had the vote.

George Harney, forgotten hero. We could do with him today.

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Obama Worse Than Bush (again)

Just when you thought our rulers could not get worse. Obama, taking time out from targeting teenagers for aerial assassination by drone, has surpassed the Bush regime by clamping new and extreme limitations on the right of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay to meet the attorneys who are defending them in court. Sometimes you have to pinch yourself to believe this stuff is true as you type it.

At least one attorney has been told he will have no access to his client unless he signs a “voluntary agreement” which accepts that any meetings with his client are entirely at the discretion of the US authorities and not a right.

In another “technical” adjustment, the Obama administration has altered flight rules to allow unpiloted drones to fly over the United States, in places where previously only piloted planes were allowed. There has been no official reason given for the change in regulations, but it opens the way for unlimited aerial surveillance of US citizens, and the eventual sci-fi scenario of citizens being zapped from the air without warning if Obama does not approve of them, just as has happened to hundreds of people in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. That may found far fetched – but so does anti-aircraft batteries on the roofs of London apartment blocks and 17,000 army personnel patrolling the streets of London. Civil liberties have disappeared so fast in the past decade there is no telling where it will end.

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Flying Blue Air France Con Trick

The invoice for “Free Tickets” from KLM/Air France Flying Blue

Taxes and surcharges Adult

Carrier imposed surcharge 372.28
UK air passenger duty 103.98
Airport fee 36.45
Passenger service charge 32.07
Passenger service charge 21.61
Passenger service charge international 13.93
French airport tax 12.72
Embarkation tax 4.50
Solidarity tax 1.00

Total per passenger 598.54
Number of passengers 4

Total including taxes and surcharges : £ 2,394.16

I fly around the world a great deal and had never tried to use any of the “airmile” type benefits I had accrued. As I kept receiving tempting brochures and internet offers, I decided to use my 420,000 Flying Blue miles on taking the family to Martinique for a holiday.

Flying Blue had been bombarding my inbox with a promo. I was stupid enough to invest an hour into trying to book this online. This is the bill I was presented with at the end for these “free” flights.

The taxes I can understand as they are passed on by the airline, but the “Carrier Imposed Surcharge” of 372.28 per person is simply an airfare. I phoned up Flying Blue to query this and was told it was a “fuel surcharge”.

It was stupid of me to believe I was actually going to be able to get what all that promotional material seemed to offer. On the face of it this is just a simple tale of Craig being gullible. But I can’t help feeling that the pointlessness of all those brochures and emails, of the rigmarole of your membership card and points accumulation and statements, all to attempt to sell you something you didn’t particularly want, by deceit, says something about the lack of values of straightforwardness in modern society. Or something.

Anyway Flying Blue is a confidence trick, and if this saves someone else the time and disappointment of bothering with it, that would be a good thing.

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