Monday, 30 March 2009

Looks like Brown should have gone to Europe

While jet setting in South America, a Berlin magazine “obtained” and published the draft agreement Brown hopes to secure at the G20. It stated that he wanted a “$2 trillion” global fiscal stimulus. The Czech Republic, France and Spain's leaders have joined together to echo the comment, nein Herr Brown.

I'm no economist but do think they have a valid point being cautious and stopping to look at the cause of the problem. In Britain financial services alone make up almost a third our GDP. Good business is spreading the risk. Yet we can't compete globally with our exports industry and we've got so few farms left now, we're not even self sufficient.

That leaves the city (ironically) to be the one to get us back on track. Bankers can't make the money needed while being handcuffed, at the same time no regulation is like putting foxes in charge of the hen house. A balance needs to be struck with protecting people, regulating credit, spreading the risk by investing in other industries and I think we can all agree getting a better monitoring service.

Is there a problem more fundamental though, as how can you restore the economy when people don't have confidence in it? People will hold on to their money while they believe there is no light at the end of the tunnel, survival instincts will just kick in. Brown is part of that problem, he is too synonymous with the cause for people to believe he can fix it. 30 years after James Callaghan's vote of no confidence, is it time for someone in parliament to act on what people think.

Agadon't Don't Don't . . .

You know how bad things have got, when Agadoo is being re-released to cheer up the nation.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Porn Expense Claim More Sleaze

Jacqui Smith's husband was caught with his pants down, after she "mistakenly" claimed for a pay-per-view TV package while billing for an internet connection. This doesn't work out to a lot of money, but does sum up the sleazy, money grabbing, double standards we're getting used to hearing about. (read more)

In light of these increasing “claims”, I thought I'll familiarise myself with the Green book, which provides guidelines about parliamentary salaries, allowances and pensions. The "principles" section drew my attention:
3.3.1. Principles
You must ensure that arrangements for your ACA claims are above reproach and that there can be no grounds for a suggestion of misuse of public money. Members should bear in mind the need to obtain value for money from accommodation, goods or services funded from the allowances.
You must avoid any arrangement which may give rise to an accusation that you are, or someone close to you is, obtaining an immediate benefit or subsidy from public funds or that public money is being diverted for the benefit of a political organisation.
ACA must not be used to meet the costs of a mortgage or for leasing accommodation from:
  • yourself;
  • a close business associate or any organisation or company in which you - or a partner or family member - have an interest; or
  • a partner or family member.
It appears Mrs Smith read it to, hence her doing the "right thing for her family". These MP's claims are only within the rules because they've been worked to their advantage. Brown's ability to turn his blind eye to anything that's greedy and solely self interested, is becoming unparalleled. Never mind how much it undermines any creditably MP's have, drowning us all in rising levels of hypocrisy and that's really what we need right now, the man's a born leader.

UKFI Vote On Freddy's Pension

UKFI the body created to handle the government’s stakes in RBS, are going to vote on Fred Goodwins Pension. The out come is not expected to be in his favour, though either way it's not legally binding, they just hope it will put "pressure" on him and show their disappointment.

While waiting for public anger to reach breaking point, there's an on-line game were you can claim money back from Fred.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

G20 Protest – Saturday 28th

The protest went well contrary to what police suggested. Turn out was estimated at 35,000 by police, Put People First haven't announced any figures as of writing this. I'm surprised however there wasn't more, as can you think of anything more quintessentially British than forming a long queue!

I was pleasantly surprised by police in attendance, they weren't trying to provoke or intimidate people and their terrorist cameramen taking photos of everyone weren't out. Overall they were fairly low key apart from around parliament, which you would expect, and the Ritz which isn't so expected.

There were a lot of children and families present which was really nice to see, along with a large cross section of people from, communist parties, socialists workers, child campaign groups, pensioners, unions, anarchists, Stop the War Coalition, Salvation army, Greenpeace and a lot of people like me, who aren't happy with the ineptness surrounding this recession. The best protesters were a group of people dressed as bankers, who while slipping Champagne and smoking cigars, heckled “bloody commies, I just want a swimming pool”.

The atmosphere was really enhanced by the brass bands, they were brilliant, it was like marching to the Wallace & Gromit theme. Which made the atmosphere really upbeat, though there was a sense of anger lurking under it. Which is a pretty good parallel to how most people feel, there isn't anything that can gloss over how pissed off people are getting.

I hope the other protests planned will follow suit, and the police show the professionalism they did today, as they do set the tone of a protest as much as the protesters.

Update: I stand corrected, the police were taking photos/filming from balconies. Hence I didn't see them.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Re: G20 summit: Are demonstrators being demonised?

I'm glad to see at least one article isn't jumping on the scaremongering band wagon. People having an axe to grind isn't the same as picking up an axe and going out to protest. Though it's quite possible a small minority will want to incite violence, the majority will not. This idea that you have to be an anti capitalism anarchist intent on harm, to want to protest is ridiculous. You don't have to be anti capitalist to feel angry about bankers pay outs, wasted money, growing debt and unemployment. You don't have to be an anarchist to say the government should focus on helping people not banks, or they themselves have a role in this rescission.

I'll be out at the Put People First protest in London, I'm neither anti capitalist or an anarchist. I would not be protesting if I felt it's intent was anything other than a peaceful one. As the moment a protest becomes violent, you become just a mob of people, you lose the message you were trying to send and that's self defeating.

Gordons Doodles

You always see Gordon doodling on pieces of paper, tongue slightly protruding, head tilled in contemplation and a deep crease in his brow from the concentration. What is it that he's doodling?

>Click on image to enlarge<

1930s Depression Any Parallels?

There has been an increasing amount of articles over the last few weeks on terrorism and immigration. From Jacqui Smith being the bearer of the news that dirty bombs will kill us all, immigration numbers being the equivalent to the population of Birmingham and all that falls in-between.

I've noticed from the responses to these articles an increasing hostility directed at immigrates, this has been particularly oblivious with regard to Binyam Mohamed. I'm reminded of an interview I listened to with Eric Hobsbawn. When asked about the consequence of the 1930s depression i.e Hitler's election, and if anything like that could happen again he replied.
In the 1930s the net political effect in the short run of the great depression was an amorous strengthening of the right. With two exceptions one was Scandinavia which managed to succeed in moving left towards it's sort of social democratic thing and interestingly enough the United States. Where in fact they reacted against the equivalent of Bush . . .
It's an interesting parallel given of the elections so far, America voted for Obama, and Iceland has moved from a centre right Prime Minster to social democrat. The main reason however I raise this is, part of the reason Hitler was elected was immigration, blame and fear was focused surrounding the depression on a group of people. I'm not suggesting however that Cameron is just waiting to be elected to grow a small moustache! More that it concerns me given Labour's immigration and terrorist policies have already created a lot of ill feeling, without adding a financial crisis on top.

So what parties in Britain stand to benefit? Though the Conservatives will gain votes, they won't really benefit from that fear. Parties like the BNP with a more decisive approach stand to gain and Labour themselves if they stoke the fire of fear enough. As by doing so they're effectively saying "only we can save you". Is that agenda what we are seeing by being more up front with data surrounding terrorism and immigration? The cynic in me says yes, yet I hope not, as George Santayana famously said “those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Nasa - Cassini Equinox Mission

Nasa's Cassini spacecraft exploring Saturn and its domain, has captured some amazing pictures. The moon Titan is the missions main focus as it's one of the most Earth-like planets found to date. It is doubtful however they'll find anything still breathing among the methane atmosphere.

Advert For Sci Fi Channel

I stumbled across a really novel advertising campaign for the Sci Fi Channel (See more)

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Michael Portillo And Unsafe Seats

The Guardian has an article on what a swing to the Conservatives would cost Labour. Just a uniform swing of 5.5% would lose front bencher's; Jacqui Smith, Michael Wills and Tony McNulty their seats. Given Smith is so synonymous with NuLabour, could she come to represent Labours fall from power as Portillo did for the Conservatives?

Perhaps this will be a different situation from Tony Blair's landslide in 1997, people will look on as the sound of “things can only get better” rings in their ears. We've been there and got the T-shirt, leaving us just sceptical about promises and change.

Is there something we can learn from this though? I can't think of one Prime Minster that has walked out of Downing Street with their head held high after three terms in power, nor can I think of one political party either. Do the Americans have the right idea, legislate that no political leader can serve more than two terms in office? The likelihood of a politician suggesting that to parliament though is very remote.

My Father says “politicians are like nappies, change them regularly they won't cause a stink”. Perhaps he has a valued point there, if more people voted tactically to create marginal rather than safe seats, we could change them with more ease. The difference between* the two main parties is a lot smaller than it used to be, is it time to place accountably over and above ideology.

*You can also take a test on that website to see where you stand politically.

EU Warmly Welcomes Gordon Brown

On the off chance you haven't seen this yet, or just for a repeat viewing here's Daniel Hannan being nautical.

Also Nigel Farage letting off steam.

It would be far more entertaining if Westminster was more like that.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Downing Street Petition For DVD's

There's a petition up on the Number 10s website to remove region-encoding from DVDs.
As the Prime Minister has himself reportedly recently discovered when President Obama gave him some DVDs, because of the region encoding it is not possible to play lawfully-acquired DVDs from one region on a lawfully-acquired player in another.
Beautiful! You do unfortunately have to give your address to sign it.

Bill Of Rights - Jack Straw

Jack Straw has announced his green paper on a British Bill of Rights proposal, just looking at the title “Rights and Responsibilities - developing our constitutional framework” I lower my expectations.
The Government believes that any Bill of Rights and Responsibilities should seek to articulate what we owe, as much as what we expect.(2.18)
How individuals should live together, what rights and freedoms we should enjoy in relation to one another and against the state and how they should be balanced by the responsibilities we owe each other are among the most fundamental questions in politics.(vi)
You would be forgiven for thinking the most fundamental question was how much money can be crammed into their pockets, and that does have validity here. Accountability to the people should be at the heart of such a proposal, because as Jack says.
...power always clusters, chemically, round the powerful. And it requires rigorous and vigorous activity to reverse this law of nature. (x)
Yes especially when people won't release their grip, creating the chemical N+O=Bi. So what are the suggested responsibilities we all “owe as members of UK society”.
  • Treating National Health Service and other public sector staff with respect
  • Safeguarding and promoting the well being of children in our care
  • Living within our environmental limits
  • Participating in civic society through voting and jury service
  • Assisting the police in reporting crimes and co-operating with the prosecution agencies
  • Paying taxes
  • Obeying the law.
Though there is the caveat of “being a matter of debate”, it states the government doesn't suggest they should be legally enforceable, as there are laws and penalties already in place for the fore mentioned. Yet, when referring to our rights it states that because there are laws in place already.
At this stage, the Government does not propose the inclusion of the principle of habeas corpus or a right to trial by jury in any new Bill of Rights and Responsibilities... (3.31)
If the replacement laws in question had our interests at heart, if people really felt secure, we wouldn't be discussing a Bill of Rights. 'Britainimo Bay' and orange jumpsuits really don't work for me.

The suggested rights the government proposes in this bill.
  • Setting down provision for victims from rights already accorded
  • A right for children to achieve well being, whatever their background or circumstances
  • Emphasise the extensive equality safeguards provided under the law
  • Healthcare and child welfare having existing entitlements stated
A little lacking when it comes to rights compared to responsibilities. I guess Jack he giveth and then taketh with both hands, but rest assured.
The Government does not consider that a generally applicable model of directly legally enforceable rights or responsibilities would be the most appropriate.. (4.25)
They'd prefer a symbolic statement, because here's the real caveat, the sting in the tail, the idealogical statement of New Labour. The bill wouldn't add to or modify legislation put in place by New Labour i.e anti-terrorism, detention or trial of suspects or the removal of deportees etc because.
... in the Government’s view these should properly remain the subject of political decisions, taken by Parliament. Any new Bill of Rights and Responsibilities should make it clear that Parliament remained free to legislate on such areas in the future and that the courts would have no power to strike down or re-write future legislation in these areas. (4.26)
That's the problem in the first place Jack, you're really missing the point completely. If you have to earn rights then what's to stop someone moving the goal posts, or continuing to move them. A right is a freedom that is morally or legally due to a person. As Chris Huhne expressed well:
Human rights (such as the right to a fair trial) are not and cannot be conditional, because by definition they are the minimum we should enjoy as human beings. (read more)
The document states "they want all parts of society to enter into discussion", by that they mean the election will be a referendum, as they're not proposing this before then.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Google Street View

I've been playing with Google Street View like a present unwrapped on Christmas morning. I haven't been able to find anything not discovered already. Though I have toured my neighbour Google style twice and may never leave my home again.

The launch of 'Google Street View' has however been meet with complaints and concerns over privacy issues. If it was a live camera rather than a photograph, or if Google like the government would only remove your details by going to the European Court of Human Rights, I would agree with the claims. In the absence of that, let's just enjoy it and if those raised eyebrows turn to real concern then I'm quite happy to boycott it, Google is a business after all. Without people willing to use their product, there's no point in it.

Tony McNulty Second Home Expenses

Yet another Labour MP has been claiming second home expenses for an additional income. This time Tony McNulty has claimed £60,000 in second home expenses, for a house he owns but his parents live in. McNulty says he regrets his actions and is calling for a review of MPs’ expenses. The Daily Mail has a very in depth view complete with graphs, photos and maps.

I'll give him:
  • 6/10 for audacity – Compared to other MPs' in the news recently he wasn't caught with his hand, arm, upper body and face in the trough.
  • 8/10 for artistic licence - I haven't heard the “the house I own and my parents live is my second home” one.
  • 6/10 for regret/apology - At least he attempted something even if it was half arsed.
The results for this have been calculated and are presented below:

"Stupid and Sleazy enough not to vote for"

Your the kind of politician that thought modest amounts would go unnoticed. Little and often is your motto. You've realised all too late that as the Minister for Employment, to take anything at this time isn't such a bright idea.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

MacGyver The Movie

New Line Cinema are developing a “MacGyver” movie. I wish I knew how many hours I spent as a child locked in the shed, hoping to construct a weapon from rabbit food, old paint and duck tape. So I'm hopping this will be good, or Hollywood just screwed up another part of my childhood.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Snoop On Thy Neighbour – Public Health "Mentors"

In another amazing act by the government, public health "mentors" are being recruited by the NHS to offer 'on the spot' advice to their colleagues, family, friends and neighbours. These informants will preach the government advice of just how to live a happy and healthy life under New Labour, the reason for this:
Ministers are concerned that some people are turned off by its traditional methods of advising on public health, including large-scale advertising drives such as the recent £75 million Change4Life campaign.
No, people are turned off by a nannying state, just when did the British public become so unable to make decisions for themselves? Yes it's the states job to inform and educate, but not take away all options bar the ones it likes. Try a little change of tone you might find people more inclined to respond rather than just rebel or become apathetic.

What really strikes me about this act is how divisive it is, now we're being split into groups of people who embrace the government and those that don't. What's next punishment for those that don't share the states thoughts? Increased tax for people that don't sign up to be a mentor? Wait a minute, better not give them ideas.

Patricia Hewitt Seeking Suicide Law Change

Patricia Hewitt is seeking to change the law to allow people to take terminally ill patients abroad for assisted suicide. A debate in parliament on this is more than “long over due“ it's necessary. Increasing amounts of people are going abroad to end their lives. Families shouldn't come back to Britain and face the prospect of prosecution, they should be allowed to grieve. Where is the compassion in this continuing to happen when a clear definition of the law, or just working with EU states to assure there are no abuses would end it?

Some would argue that changing the law for what is essentially a small percentage of people is unnecessary, but the figures only represent the people willing to publicly challenge the law, there are many more who would want to do this, but fear their families being prosecuted too much. Laws should protect vulnerable people, but there is a difference between inciting people into suicide and someone making a rational choice to end their own life, essentially for them it's a decision on the quality of their life.

Assisted suicide is a deeply personal decision, and one that represents much more than a choice, it represents your right to your life and your body being your own, not the states, yours. It is long overdue that this should be debated in parliament, as that should be a human right.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

My Favourite Ingredients - Skye Gyngell

This is a collection of recipes and information based on the authors favourite foods. Skye Gyngell is a chef at Petersham Nurseries restaurant, and she's very passionate about good seasonal food.

I found the recipes looked and sounded wonderful, I even fell asleep dreaming of the food. The only issue I have is that some of the ingredients are a little obscure, suggesting an alternative to them would have been useful.

The information she included on the foods she choice, from general information to their season and knowing when they're ready to eat, was very informative. For example.
Young asparagus spears are the tender shoots of a much larger plant, which if left alone will grow over a metre tall, with fern like fronds and brilliant vermilion-coloured berries.
Also grown from seed it takes 4-5 years to harvest. I didn't know that, though I've only ever brought it in bunches from the super market and you do tend to except what you see.

I've not cooked any of her recipes yet but I've got my eye on several, particularly the baked apples; Cox's apples stuffed with currents, sultanas, raisins, a little lemon zest and covered with brandy. How good does that sound?

Pope – No Preservativi Just Love

The Pope's tour of Africa has has been overshadowed with a statement he made about contraceptives. The Vatican has changed the wording in light of criticism, but according to journalists present he originally said the Aids problem:
. . . cannot be overcome with the distribution of condoms which, on the contrary, increase the problem. . . .
No one expects the Pope to start shouting a condom a day keeps the doctor away, but have some overview Holy One. It's not like the Vatican isn't capable of it, the Belgian Cardinal Goddfried Daneels has said:
. . . This comes down to protecting yourself in a preventive manner against a disease or death. [It] cannot be entirely morally judged in the same manner as a pure method of birth control . . . (read more)
Hallelujah Cardinal, 33 million people are infected with HIV, two thirds of them in Africa. The Pope's answer to this; "spiritual and human awakening", "friendship for those who suffer", “marital fidelity” and “abstinence”. That's right "amore" but not of the naughty kind will solve the problem. It is a shame though we're not all Popes otherwise that might have been a workable solution. In the absence of abstinence though, use a god damn condom.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

What in the Captain Kirk is going on?

Having seen the new Star Trek trailer, all I can can say is . . . . . red alert, teeny bopper film decloaking off the starboard bow.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Tuition Fees – Money, Money, Money

Tuition fees have to be reviewed by the government this year, and a survey by the BBC reports that universities want fees increased to between £4,000 and £20,000 per year. Of the vice chancellors interviewed two thirds believed fees had not deterred applications from poorer families.

I went to university a few years after means-tested tuition fees were introduced, the amount of financial help given by the government was judged on my parents income before tax. The government isn't digging deep in their pockets to help people out, they're making it as difficult as they can for people to claim anything.

The idea that it hasn't put people from lower incomes off is ridiculous, could people from lower incomes seriously consider becoming a doctor or vet with a potential £21,000 commitment, even before student loans and interest added? Raising it to the £7,000 suggested will make it a £42,000 commitment before loans and that's not going to put people off?

I'm not idealistic enough to say there should be no financial commitment from people in university, as there are so many people going onto higher education now. I accept it costs the government a lot of money, but there are ways for it work without penalising people. Especially since higher education has filled the role of apprenticeships, leaving people with few options.

Labour need to look at the system that's in place. Moving courses to colleges or adult learning that are just interest based would save money and resources. Quality not quantity is needed, this is far more important than targets that no one other than Labour care about. Higher education should be available to everyone, not just the privileged. Increasing tuition fees will just create even more of a divide between lower and higher income earners.

Monday, 16 March 2009

RE: Is the G20 a lose-lose for Gordon?

There's an interesting article on Political Betting about the G20 summit and the media's reaction to it.
…..this occasion seems to encapsulate the problems in which Labour find themselves. Even in a case where they have not yet done anything wrong, there is no way that they will be given any credit unless they perform the extraordinary.….
Both the forthcoming G20 summit and Brown's Obama visit have been poorly received and reviewed. Is it as PB says that resignation has set in and media are setting upon him? I don't doubt an element of it is that, just as there's an element of deep dislike for Brown, but is there something lurking under that.

The internet has made information freely available to people, it's given a potential voice to any one with a keyboard and internet connection. It's allowed media to report at any moment in the day, from anywhere in the world. Just type a word into Google and you have opinions, articles and information right in front of you in the blink of an eye.

There lies Labours problem, you have to adapt to that. Labour have always manipulated information in a way that any control freak would be in awe of, yet one statement or tip off now, isn't just one, it's thousands as it's passed around the web like Chinese whispers. They can't control that, but they've not adapted to it either, and until they do they're not managing exceptions or communicating clearly. They're just giving away ammo to shoot at them with.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Can Torture Ever Be Justified?

I was reading 'have your say' on the BBC, the question posed was; Can torture ever be justified? This question was raised in relation to Binyam Mohamed, who spent six years in Guantanamo Bay. The top comment recommended by 478 people as of writing this was:
My heart bleeds for him - not. He should be put back on a plane and sent "home". Why on earth the taxpayer is paying for this "resident" is beyond me. He can sue if he likes from where he comes from at his countrys expense - NOT OURS.
If he seeks "true Islam" then what is he doing here? Cashing in as usual...
I read four pages of comments and they were all in a similar vein. Putting aside his citizenship status as that is a separate issue. It shocks me that people can be so complacent about torture, comments like:
Oh yes. We're playing a dirty game against dirty players. If we have to win by using their own rules against them, so be it.

I dont know what he's complaining about. He should be thankful that he is still alive and he has still got a head and limbs.

Those men in Guantanamo Bay and other prisons, may or may not be guilty of any crime, but the moment they were tortured the ability to prosecute them was forfeited. As information or testimonies gained through torture isn't admissible in our courts.

So what about the credibly of the information. Is it a way to secure accurate and actionable information. Granted there is not a clear cut answer to that question, just searching for information on the web, examples can be found to support both sides of the argument. All studies agree though that people can confess or say anything in order to get the physical or mental torture to stop. That can easily lend to false information.

It's instinctive to get angry and want to retaliate, but where does this end if you say it's OK to torture someone under these circumstances, or we start to justify it in our own minds. It lessen the value of peoples lives, it's divisive, it is shameful, and what's point in it when we can't prosecute any one, does that really reflect the values of the West? I truly hope not, particularly when this looks so similar to the terrorist videos we see on our own screens.

"HappyCloud" At The Tate Modern

The artist Stuart Semple created thousands of pink smiling faces made from soap, helium and vegetable dye to float over London, spreading a little cheer as they went.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

The Blizzards - The Reason

What a great music video! I should forewarn you the song is really catchy.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Arise Sir Fred Goodloose Your Knighthood

Unable to claw money back from Sir Fred Goodwin and under mounting pressure to do something, Mp's are petitioning for his knighthood to be removed. Like Robert Mugabe before him on hearing the shocking news Freddy will no doubt be stuck by the harshness of such an act, brutal, just so damn brutal he'll think as his lower lip quivers and his eyes burn with tears. He'll close them tightly and bite his lower lip as emotions flood over him. Get a grip it's just a medal he'll say while laughing at himself. Alas though a tear will escape, falling down his face to drop from his chin onto the medal he cradles in his hands.

I'm sure he cares as much for his knighthood as keeping himself in the lifestyle he's become accustomed to. If he hadn't "obtained his knighthood by other means" this might have been a productive route, rather than just looking like a last ditch attempt to save face.

It gets incredibly frustrating that we always have to go through this spin time and time again. Akin to having an urge to sneeze, but for some reason you just can't, so you sit there with a screwed up face and wide open mouth, over and over again.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Not Much Of An Obama Bounce Poll

Following on from my Obama bounce post, the first polls after Brown's meeting are in (read more).

Conservatives - 42% N/C
Labour - 30% +2
Lib Dems - 19% +1

It's worth noting that 2% is within the margin of error, which is roughly 3% overall.

G20 Protests

The forthcoming G20 summit brings with it a chance to peacefully protest; whether it's anti capitalism, against bankers getting hand outs, or just frustration at the way this recession is being handled. Here is the first chance in quite awhile to get your voice heard:

Put People First
are marching on the 28th March, so a good one for those that have to work.

Greenpeace are protesting on April 1st and 2nd

Stop The War Coalition are marching in central London on April 1st. Then April 2nd marching to the G20 conference.

Update1 - G20 Meltdown in The City have a list of all the main protests.

Update2 - Link to my post about the 28th March protest itself.

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

The push for Brown to say sorry has become like Bill Clinton repeating over and over that he "did not have sexual relations with that women" while a stained blue dress hangs in the background.

Everyone knows Brown bares some responsibly, the situation was either sustainable or even stable. This idea that he got rid of "Boom and Bust" just meant bad preparation for when it did hit the fan. With banks selling as much credit as they could to customers, and house prices so high. All of which the FSA is meant to monitor and report on, and who are they accountable to?

It's always stuck me as a really bizarre trait of New Labour, that the things government should regulate and control they end up being completely relaxed about. Wanting more is such an instinctive trait in people, it's hardly surprising that people signed up to this 'put it on a credit card culture', especially when just walking down a high street you were inundated with people offering you a credit card to put it on.

Brown's refusal to say sorry has made this much more of a story than a simple apology would have been. He can't now back track on the stance he's taken without looking more and more absurd. He was Chancellor of the Exchequer for 10 years, his responsibility was managing the economy, budgeting, recognising risks and dealing with them. Did he do his job properly, or did he take a short term view to be popular, rather than the one to say there's no more credit?

Psychological Studies

There's an interesting article on PsyBlog, that looks at a cross section of the most influential social psychological studies. From the famous 'Stanford Prison Experiment' to 'Milgram’s obedience test'.

Health Bill Says Goodbye to Marlboro Country

The government's Health Bill which includes having cigarettes sold under the counter has an additional proposal to:
….. ban or restrict the sale or supply of tobacco products if they are sold in packaging that does not comply with regulations.... If passed this will allow the Health Secretary to dictate the colour of cigarette packs, their shape, the trademarks displayed on them and any labelling..... (read on)
Amazing what next? Lighters that only light once every two hours, cigarettes that shout abuse while you smoke, cough as you exhale, or giving the picture and large warning on the packet clearly isn't enough, why not just have the cigarettes put into a cancerous lung and sold. These additional laws are just taking the biscuit, treating people like they're purchasing a snuff film, rather than a pack of 20 cigarettes is just ridiculous.

It's easy to pretend your being tough on health by targeting smokers, yet I can't help but feel there's something missing here . . . . Maybe as I walk down the high street on a Saturday evening, watching out for the vomit, scraps of donner kebabs, remains of Big Mac's, smashed bottles and chubby kids buying carrier bags full of junk food, it will come to me.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Lord “Custard Face” Mandelson

A member of the Plane Stupid protest group has thrown green custard in the face of Peter Mandelson. Bets are being made as to what dessert or minster will be next. I think Ms Smith, outside her squat, with a trifle.

*The video is in slow motion for optimum viewing experience*

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

The Gum Thief – Douglas Coupland

The story is written as an exchange of letters and diary entries. Which stem from Bethany discovering Roger’s notebook in the staff room at Staples. Shocked to discover Roger's writing diary entries pretending to be her, she writes back to him. This develops into an unlikely friendship as they start to share their thoughts and feeling on the world. A couple of thoughts I particularly liked were:
“I think if human beings had genuine courage, they'd wear their costumes every day of the year, not just Halloween. Wouldn't life be more interesting that way?”
“Have you ever stayed in a hostel? It's like a crack den without the crack.”

Roger is writing a novel within the book called Glove Pond, it's obliviously a story about his life and Bethany responses to it by writing short stories about buttering toast, from the toast perspective, I found this to be a stroke of genius:

“I can't see the knife coming my way! If you wanted to scare me it worked, and . . . oh jeez . . . it's not even butter, it's margarine. Oh dear God, it's not even margarine – it's spread - house-brand spread...”

Coupland continues themes that are familiar within his work, that of loneness, memories and life. He always seems to find another stance on them though, which keeps the subject fresh.

Overall a book fans of Coupland won't be disappointed with, and for those new to his work, not a bad introduction. I would be inclined to suggest Hey Nostradamus! or for a more geeky alternative Microserfs over this though.


Monday, 2 March 2009

The Court of Public Opinion - Harriet Harman

Harriet Harman's desperation to be the next prime minster is showing again. Every time I read anything she says though, I can't help but be overwhelmed, it's like opening an oven being blasted in the face with hot air and just hoping your eyebrows are still intact after. She's said about Sir Fred Goodwin's pension.
""The prime minister has said that it is not acceptable and therefore it will not be accepted. It might be enforceable in a court of law, this contract, but it’s not enforceable in the court of public opinion and that’s where the Government steps in."
Bit of a slippery slope changing contract laws isn't it? And what is there really to contest here? If you sign a contact you agree to it, unless there's a clause to say that payment won't be made under the terms XYZ, then government approved it, Goodwin indeed for some.

New Labour increased peoples anger in order to distract and point the finger at someone else, yet there's three fingers pointing right back at them. The terms "terrible misjudgement", "money for nothing" and "doing the honourable thing", can easily applied to the people saying them.

Count adjourned.

Fashion, the Final Frontier

If you were to board a space shuttle and be blasted into space at 20,000 mph, would you want to be wearing any of these outfits? I think I'd pass and go with the standard NASA nappy.

Convention on Modern Liberty

I wasn't able to attend the civil liberties conference, but I want to express my complete support for it. Discussing, protesting and raising awareness of these erosions to our fundamental rights, is so important.

The counter terrorism laws being passed by New Labour are making all citizens increasingly prove they're not a terrorist or extremist. The idea that to tackle terrorism you criminalise an entire country is just extreme in itself, and exactly who is the threat to Britain's way of life here?

By defining 'terrorism' in an ambiguous way, these laws have allowed police to interpret rather than enforce them. New Labour has given away unrestricted power without ever asking the question of who guards the guards? This has left us in an ever increasing police state, with an inferior ability to protest against these erosions to our liberty, or hold our government to account.

Our rights have been built upon over time and certainly shouldn't be lost so easily, as echoes of such acts run through history, it's shameful they couldn't stay there.
“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”
- Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Mutiny in the Commons - Royal Mail Privatisation

munting in the commonsPeter Mandelson has announced plans to part-privatise the Royal Mail in order to modernise it and safe guard workers pensions. His proposal has been met with protests from MP's, and unions who are prepared to vote on withdrawing donations from the Labour party.

The rebelling Labour MP's have stated that the partly made a manifesto pledge to keep the Post Office in public hands. Yet browsing over their manifesto you can't help but see they've made many pledges they haven't kept. So what are we really seeing within this rebellion, the finial days of Thatcher, John Major or Jim Callaghan?

There certainly seems to be a sense of Euroscepticism around this issue, yet the problems within Royal Mail would still exist without the EU's plans. Opening the market to allow competition, just exacerbated the faults already there. As successful businesses adapt to meet changing needs, Royal Mail hasn't.

Essentially Labour are reacting to the situation rather than being pre-emptive to begin with. As there is no point entering a competition and just hoping you're fit enough to compete. The EU postal plans were announced 15 years ago, and were implemented in 2006, 3 years earlier than needed. Labour and Royal Mail management have had up to 12 years in order to strengthen their position and find a workable solution for pensions.

Yet here we are, with the proposal of piggy backing a successful company to minimal investment from government, nice due care Mandelson.