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The Ministry of Defence’s decision to compensate British service personnel for having to pay Scottish income tax to support Holyrood is a pretty cheap political shot. Many of soldiers, sailors, and RAF personnel will be getting about £12 rebate a year. Considering the cost of administering the rebates, it hardly seems worth it. And the personnel stationed in Scotland will continue to get free prescriptions, free school meals and a better funded education for their kids, etc. The real winners are the highly paid officers who will be getting up to £1,500 pounds in rebates. My guess is that the rebates will go towards paying their kids private school fees. Thus helping to maintain the fine tradition of ex-public school boys dominating the officer corps of the British Army. There are plenty of jobs that mean that people are forced to work in areas in which they pay higher council  rates for public services than did in their home town and yet as far as I know, apart from London-weighting, the London government does nothing for them. What’s so special about the military and Scotland? If you ask me, it’s all a political stunt. The London government’s suggestion that unless the rebates are paid there will be no-one willing to come to Scotland to keep in the nuclear submarines in the Clyde operational is an insult to the technicians of Royal Navy. 

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Here in North America coming to work early and leaving late is much admired. The people who do that kind of thing are often promoted. I used to come in early for my shift too, but that was because I wanted to do the morning calls in my own way and that included chatting to people about matters that were not strictly business, and I used to leave late, but that was because there was no point leaving on time and spending an hour in a rush-hour traffic jam; why not just leave an hour later and drive straight home? I understand that in Germany, people who come in early and leave late are not marked for promotion. The Germans seem to take the sensible attitude that if someone can’t do their job in the time allocated, then something is wrong. And that “something” is more likely to be the employee than the employer. So, German bosses are decidedly unimpressed by what North Americans see as eager beavers. And let’s not get into people who never take holidays. It’s not unusual to find that’s because they don’t want anyone else doing their job and finding out either how incompetent they are or how much fraud they are committing.

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I heard the most interesting thing on the German Government’s English-language radio service – apparently the people of Berlin welcomed the Red Army as liberators in 1945. But, according to  Deutsche Welle, the good citizens of Berlin soon tired of the boorish Soviets and were grateful when the Americans saved them from starvation during the Berlin Airlift of 1949. Most of the item on the radio was about how wonderful the Americans were. This was a bit of a surprise because the Americans had no interest in fighting to “liberate” the people of Berlin from the Nazis until Hitler declared war on them in 1941. Liberation came courtesy of the fickle Red Army, at least according to DW.  The German radio programme did acknowledge that the British and some private airlines may have had something to do with the airlift, but apart from one token RAF pilot interviewed, the item focused on how wonderful Americans are. I was a little surprised to hear how delighted the people of Berlin had been at the arrival of the Soviets, but if the German Government says so………

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More than a decade ago I came across an odd little book in a second-hand shop. It was written by a Scots guy who at one point had spent some time riding around North America on freight trains in either the 1920s or 1930s. I think the Americans called such people “railroad bums” . Or maybe Hobos. Anyway, it turned out that this fella had ridden some trains that had gone through Alberta, which is where I live for the time being.  He recounted in the book that his fellow travellers strongly advised him not to get off the train in Alberta because it was widely believed by them that the province’s population was mostly crazy. Our Scot was told that Alberta was basically the last place in the world to be populated by white people. Many of the settlers had already failed badly in other parts of the world, such as Australia, Africa, eastern Canada or the United States. The province was the last chance saloon for some real strange dudes. I can’t say how valid the advice our Scottish chum was given actually was. But to this day Alberta has a reputation among other Canadians for being a bit of an odd man out among the provinces. There can't be many governments who, as the Albert provincial government did in 1975, would appoint a murderer as Solicitor General. Roy Farran was never convicted but anyone who was unaware of his confessions to the killing wasn't doing a very good job on the background check. For more on Farran

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OK, if I hear one more idiot on the radio refer to football as “The Beautiful Game”, I’m going to throw the wireless out of the window. With the World Cup on at the moment, the airwaves are full of poseurs talking about “The Beautiful Game”. Anyone who has actually played the game knows it is very seldom beautiful. I suspect that many of the balloons who describe it thus are just trying to jump onto some kind of bandwagon. Needless to say, we have a lot of people on Canadian radio who use this hackneyed and misleading label. Few I suspect, if any, ever played the game seriously.  Football, or soccer as it is called here, is still catching on in Canada. For many, it is still a game for schoolgirls. The professional men’s teams are nothing to write home about. Here in Edmonton there is interesting once-a-year tournament in which the various immigrant communities play their own version of the World Cup.  That’s about as good as it gets. Professional sport in Alberta is either ice hockey, just called hockey here, or Canadian Football League; think American football with slightly different rules and dominated by Yanks who can’t get a game in the NFL.  The same is true of most major Canadian cities. Only when more people actually play football in Canada will the phrase “Beautiful Game” get a well deserved banishment. Mind you, if Canadian journalists don’t  know much about football, neither do many of English ones. I heard one say last week that England’s first home defeat wasn’t until 1953. The Scots had been beating the English in England for decades by then and the Republic of Ireland were first non-British to beat England, in 1949. 

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