|LETTERS FROM LONDON
|REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
2 September 2016
Well, now that the ‘silly season’ is over, the serious season has begun with the
usual duplicity, greed and stealth. Oh dear oh dear. It’s the white men in
bespoke suits at it again. Leaving their lovely holidays behind - I’m picturing
black socks and sandals à la CallMeDave’s classy holiday look.
Now that TTIP has been defeated – or so we are told to believe – they are
naturally in secret planning to establish TISA (Trade in Services Agreement). Oh
no surprise it’s always ‘in secret’ isn’t it?
TISA you ask? I could list the details of their nefarious stratagem, but at the end
of the day and the end of public services, why bother. The boys are determined
to privatise permanently – yes, no going back – everything possible. And you
think we have any influence? Ha ha ha. A democratic system? Ha ha ha. The
deal includes the usual suspects: Microsoft, Google, IBM, Disney, Walmart,
Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase. What’s not to love….
While TTIP is only between the EU and US, TISA involves most of the world’s
major economies, sans China and Russia in a group they call the “Really Good
Friends of Services”. How benign. Time for another moment of mirth here. Ha
Concerned campaign group Global Justice Now warns: “Defeating TTIP may
amount to a pyrrhic victory if we allow TISA to pass without challenge.”
“TISA threatens public services. From postal services to the NHS. TISA could
lock in privatisation and ensure that big multinationals increasingly call the shots
on areas like health, education and basic utilities.” Not laughing here.
A so-called “ratchet” clause in the deal means that after a service is privatised,
this is almost impossible to reverse even if it fails. Oh really not laughing. Crying.
OK. Not crying, despairing though.
But don’t think TISA is all there is – we also have ISDS or Investor-State Dispute
Settlement. At this point, I seriously doubt if you care, but I’ll give you a hint: it
involves a court, a court that is supposed to be an impartial forum resolving
disputes between international corporations and the countries where they
You know what’s coming next. This private global super court is where
executives convicted of crimes escape punishment, where international
corporations are totally free to threaten and force entire countries to acquiesce
and demand hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars in retribution. Oh no.
It is written into the treaties that govern international trade. Noooo. The US trade
representative said that “the US has been at the forefront of upgrading,
improving, and reforming international investment agreements.” I’m just so
And yet more. Yes, even more. Now you know what those representing our
interests do all day. Soon the European parliament will vote to ratify CETA. Now
this deal is similar to TTIP and includes a parallel judicial system that allows
corporations to sue governments, but this one is a huge, toxic trade deal
between the EU and Canada. “It’s undemocratic naturally and will be an onerous
burden on the UK as we negotiate our the huge, toxic trade deal between the EU
and Canada exodus from the EU.” Losing the will to live yet?
CETA is an immediate threat to environmental safeguards, workers’ rights and
will lock-in privatisation, as well as a major threat to UK food safety and public
health with lower standards in Europe. Or as our new Foreign Secretary, smug,
smirking Boris, said: “It’s a very, very bright future I see.” Oh God Boris.
Shameful. But then again, they aren’t giving up on their privatisation obsession –
ever. Did I say despairing?
Oh the irony. The ill-informed, illogical xenophobic Brexiteers are all screeching
“It’s time! Now! Do it now!” It isn’t necessary to actually explain why this is so
daft – but hints here are logistical ignorance, a total lack of experience and
expertise. Their demand is coming true. Not only has the government decided to
by-pass the votes of 650 MPs (is this legal?), but China and the US will now
have carte blanche to continue their take-over. Get it? Oh we will finally be able
to breathe now that we’ll be free from Brussels’ initiatives on air pollution – rather
A few fun facts: China’s investment in business and infrastructure in the UK has
increased by nearly 500 per cent in six years. £3.8bn on 20
mergers/acquisitions just this year alone (with nine deals worth £666m - oh let’s
enjoy that 666 - in 2010). China is now the biggest oil producer in the North Sea
with billions splashed out on: football clubs, golf clubs, banks, transport, energy,
infrastructure, aircraft, agriculture, metals, entertainment, technology, a Scottish
windfarm, media training at the University of York (no really), Sheffield city-
centre projects and Sheffield Digital Campus, a new Oxford University
technology centre, BP, Guinness, Johnnie Walker whisky, ITV studios, Royal
Albert Dock, expansion of Manchester Airport, Middlewood Locks development,
single-decker buses, and definitely not finally - your morning Weetabix. Not
Weetabix. But surely you know that already. Thinking that is quite enough?
Referred to as ‘a game-changing’ China will invest the tidy sum of £105bn in UK
infrastructure by 2025. Hmmm. The Hinkley Point nuclear project? Oh let’s not
even go there. Insane.
Oh by the way, did you know that Chinese state-owned companies are
controlled by the Communist Party and sometimes the People’s Liberation
Army? Oh you didn’t? World domination on the agenda? Oh surely not. They
are calling it ‘influence on the world stage’. Right. Keep Hong Kong as a
Jeffrey Henderson, Professor of International Development at the University of
Bristol reminds us: “It is likely under Brexit that the British economy will become
even more controlled by foreign interests than it is now. China most certainly will
become a big player, but also probably the US will too.” We are told “Britain is
open for business” ad nauseum. Well, the government has already sold Britain’s
soul so why not what’s left?
Time to learn Mandarin. Don’t forget the kids. A new Kensington school, the first
in Britain – so far - with £5000 per term can get your little darlings “a strong
influence on business, politics and international affairs”. And – they will be
immersed in Chinese culture via martial arts, calligraphy and Chinese learning
technique, ‘maths mastery’. Gosh. What will the Brexiteers say? In English.
Oh God. It’s all so exhausting. I’m shattered. Time for a little relief from
clandestine massive global manipulation.
So, are you a dog person or a cat person? This will help you decide – possibly.
Clue: it’s a dog’s life.
A new study finds dogs process speech just as humans do, using their left
hemisphere brain region to process words and their right hemisphere brain
region to process intonation. So, forget Pavlov’s “conditioned reflex.” Have a
conversation instead. Your dog will love you for it. “Did you eat my homework?”
Oh. Maybe not always.
Dogs care about both what we say and how we say it. Ah. Attila Andics, a
researcher in the Department of Ethology and MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology
Research Group at Eötvös Loránd University, wrote in Discovery News. “What
makes dogs special is that they care about humans (let’s have an audible
ahhhhh here). They attend to speech, so they have better chances for learning.
Some dogs can differentiate hundreds of words.” Oh be impressed. It is thought
that dogs are incapable of producing novel, meaningful sounds. Now you are
“Gooood doggie. Good Harry! Gooood doggie. Good Margaret!” Words of
praise were shown to activate the dogs' reward centre - the same brain region
that responds to food, sex, being petted, and -- in humans -- music that we like.
Humans are only unique in their ability to invent words. So does that mean you
can listen to ‘I Want a Dog’ or ‘Who Let the Dogs Out?’ together on the sofa? I
say try it.
How did Andics and his colleagues discover dogs are listening – and
understanding? Why an MRI brain scanner naturally. No really. 13 dogs stayed
completely motionless as their trainers talked to them. Good doggies.
Your other pets' ability to understand? Evidently cats, horses and many other
animals understand our intonation. Andics added: angry, sad, anxious, happy
and other tones "are universal, or at least they are similar across species” (ie;
mammals). Your cat in an MRI? Not a chance.
I’m thinking you might try spelling treat, walkies, out, car. So teach your old dog
new tricks. It will understand if you explain them properly.